Goodchat SME

Small businesses pressured to choose vocation over vacation

2degrees “Good Chat” SME Study reveals small business owners and decision-makers aren’t taking the time to switch off and have a break

  • 32% of SME decision-makers haven’t taken a holiday in more than a year
  • Nearly one in 10 haven’t had a holiday in four years
  • 72% admit they proactively check work emails or make calls when they’re on holiday


6 November 2019 – Give us a break: new research has revealed the barriers to small business owners and decision-makers enjoying time away from work and what the rest of us can do about it.

The 2degrees “Good Chat” SME Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 found that more than a third (38%) of SME owners and decision-makers say they struggle to switch off on holiday.

When questioned on why this was, men were more likely to put this down to a nagging feeling that something may go wrong while they were away, while women were more focused on managing their workload – potentially so there was less to catch up on when they returned.

But it turns out the ability to switch off isn’t just down to the small business owner or decision-maker.

Of those who said they struggled to switch off on holiday, one in five (21%) said it was because they kept being contacted by colleagues and business partners. This was particularly common for those aged 16-24, with 27% raising this as a problem.

It’s an important balancing act to get right, as it’s not just the SME owner or decision-maker who can be affected, but their families too: almost 40% of those surveyed have been told off by friends and family for working too hard.

Business owners and decision-makers should aim to create an environment of understanding in advance of breaks being taken and take steps to ensure staff are only contacted on holiday in urgent situations, according to Andrew Fairgray, Chief Business Officer at 2degrees.

“Small business owners are incredibly passionate about what they are doing and don’t always want to take a break. Their focus is on getting their business off the ground and growing it. I was in that position myself once and had no wish to take a holiday. I loved seeing the momentum the business had gained and felt a real sense of urgency to continue to drive it,” says Fairgray.

“But we also need to be aware of those who do want and need a holiday. While they should talk to their colleagues about being offline, in turn, colleagues should think twice before deciding whether to hit send on an email to them or save this communication for once they are back in the office.

“It’s also important to think about the benefits of taking a break. With the pressures of work known to be impacting mental health across the country, it’s important that people feel they are able to switch off when they go on holiday. Allowing themselves to refuel not only has positive effects on their mental wellbeing, but on the productivity and efficiency of their business.”

While most Kiwis are entitled to at least 20 days annual leave a year, finding time to have a holiday isn’t necessarily as straight-forward for SME owners and decision-makers.

The Study found that nearly a third (32%) haven’t taken a holiday in more than a year. What’s more, nearly one in 10 (9%) haven’t had a holiday in four years, with 55-64-year-olds most likely to be missing out. Of this age group, 17% took their last holiday more than four years ago.

Dion Nash, Founder of Triumph & Disaster, knows only too well how difficult it can be to loosen the reins and enjoy a break. After setting up his business, he had an epiphany when he realised that his job is now all work, all life, all balance.

“I’m not a great example of work life balance. It’s very hard as a small business owner to switch off as someone has to be the absolute backstop for that business. My staff are great, but I understand they need to relax when they go on their breaks, so I am the backstop. At the same time, I’m aware you have to force little periods when you go away and stay offline, so I’m getting better at trying to do that.”

Fairgray adds: “Taking a break is the perfect time for Kiwis to leave their desks and reconnect with family and friends away from their work environment, without the pressures of their daily job hanging over them. Stepping back from work can help refocus the mind.

“Workplaces should be encouraging their employees to take their allocated annual leave. However, while SME owners don’t always have anyone checking in to make sure they’re taking regular leave, there’s an opportunity for them to set an example to their teams and show how important and valuable it can be to take these breaks.”  

2degrees hopes the findings from the “Good Chat” SME Study will encourage people not only take note, but to take action and enable their colleagues to enjoy their annual leave, while doing so themselves.

The 2degrees “Good Chat” SME Study is the third and final stream of research in the “Good Chat” series. Earlier this year, 2degrees released its “Good Chat” Emoji and Relationships studies, which looked at Kiwis’ use and perception of emojis in the workplace, as well as how technology was affecting relationships.


 Contact: Adam Szentes, on behalf of 2degrees

+64 21 265 1067