When Don Kirkham and his wife Rosaria chose to be entrepreneurs, they knew that vacation time would be in short supply.
"We weren’t under any illusion that we’d be working six months of the year," says the owner of Kick It Sports, a shop in Flin Flon Manitoba that specializes in athletic clothing.
"My family had run businesses, and if that’s the life you choose, it’s no good complaining about it."
The Kirkhams didn’t take a holiday for five years, but two months ago, they decided to drive south to Fargo, South Dakota for a weeklong get-away.
They got away, but not entirely.
"Oh, you know how it is," says the Manchester native, who moved to Canada 31 years ago.
"You’re always on your Blackberry."
A recent survey of 250 Canadian professionals shows that 53 per cent of participants will work between one and three hours a day while on holiday.
That’s a holiday?
Another survey question asked about how the time would be spent — and here the pollsters saw a difference between entrepreneurs and employees.
It seems entrepreneurs are slightly more likely to be dealing with e-mails, phone calls, and significant pieces of work while on vacation.
Not surprising, considering that they often have more at stake than someone inside a corporation.
Regus Canada is an international company that wants entrepreneurs to use its "flexible solutions". It sponsored the survey about workations, as they call them.
A worldwide provider of workspaces, Regus also offers answering services and even personal assistants on a monthly, weekly, or even hourly basis.
Wes Lenci runs the Canadian operation for Regus. His own experience with holiday time is proof that those who work in big companies can catch a break.
"I was in Phoenix in April, and I didn’t touch my blackberry or my laptop for 10 days," he says.
"It felt fantastic. The kids were ecstatic. My wife was ecstatic. It was a great holiday."
But Lenci has a second-in-command who can take care of things in his absence. He understands that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury — and is glad that some of them can afford the luxury of Regus’ services.
"They ask us to refer certain people to their websites. Certain clients should be put through to voicemail," he says.
"But some they do ask us to put through immediately."
Of course, as Don Kirkham says, if you’ve chosen to run your own business, you know that just because you need a break, the world isn’t going to stop turning, or that your clients will stop calling.
I’ve taken partial holidays myself. They’re not ideal — who wants to be reminded of some problem or issue in the office when you’re trying to take a Margarita-induced nap? But it’s still a type of holiday just to be out of the office.
'I just think it’s really important to get away from everything.' —Eli Bay, relaxation trainer
The odd e-mail or phone call doesn’t ruin the day, as long as whatever that’s going on can be managed quickly and fairly easily. But that type of tolerance could be my Canadian work ethic talking.
If you look at the world map Expedia produced last year, showing the countries that are either "vacation-rich", or "vacation-deprived", you may not be surprised to see that despite its debt crisis, Europe is rich when it comes to holidays. (Siesta anyone?)
Meanwhile North America and Japan are the two areas of the world that are deprived of holiday time, with people not even taking all the annual leave days they’re entitled to, in some cases.
Of course we know vacations are good for our health, but many believe they’re also good for your business. Fresh marketing ideas, a new approach to a frustrating problem — the mind can do its best work when it’s relaxed.
"I tell people they can take a vacation every day," says Eli Bay, one of Canada’s best-known relaxation trainers.
"You don’t need to leave a stressful environment, you can recuperate and rejuvenate yourself on an ongoing basis, and do it in the midst of your work."
Bay’s business is split 50-50 between work for corporations and training for individuals.
And of course, he’s an entrepreneur himself — "If I’m not working, money does not come" — but he takes two holidays every year, one at Christmas-time and a week in the summer.
"I just think it’s really important to get away from everything," he says.
"It’s rejuvenating. You cannot live in a balanced way if you’re focused constantly on your work. But it’s important not to wait for that one or two weeks a year. You need to take time for yourself on an ongoing and consistent basis."
Bay says he has a 25-minute relaxation exercise on his website. I challenge any entrepreneur reading this to try it! It’s the least you can do, if you can’t actually get away from it all this summer.