As the adage counsels us, without time off work people become bored and boring. We asked experts on our small firms committee to reveal their top tips for planning some business friendly ‘downtime’.
Here’s a selection of their advice for small firm practitioners.
‘The trickiest aspect of going away for two weeks is the financial management of the business, so I break down the tasks to make sure that cashflow is watched and fee income monitored. I don’t check emails and I make sure my notifications are turned off, so I cannot see how many emails are building up whilst I am away. The office knows it can phone me or text me if it is something urgent, but our ethos is to only contact each other on holiday as an absolute last resort.’
Philip Giles, partner, Giles Wilson Solicitors
’As a sole practitioner, holidays were a complete headache to organise and eventually I settled on (a) taking a holiday no further than two hours’ drive from the office. Fortunately, from North Shields this included southern Scotland up to Edinburgh, the Lake District, North Yorkshire as far south as Harrogate, and the North York Moors. England is a small country after all! (b) when option (a) wasn’t possible: sending the family abroad and spending more time at the golf club - at least there’s no one to moan about that at home!’
John Scott, Reed Ryder & Meikle Solicitors
‘My best advice as a sole practitioner is to have a really good case management system that you can access if necessary on your phone - but only where absolutely necessary and most importantly of all … never come back from a holiday without another one booked!’
Emma Macpherson, Elm Solicitors
‘In summer, if you’re not barefoot, you’re overdressed, as the saying goes. But how can you really wind down and take time off if you run a small firm? My tip is to make every weekend count. Choose a variety of short “refresher” breaks close to home rather than one long absence - and enjoy the excitement of the quick change of scene, without the worry of losing contact with the business or with clients.’
Linda Felton, Fortune Green Legal Practice
‘Taking a summer holiday, or any holiday, for a small firm practitioner requires planning to make sure that urgent matters can be dealt with in your absence. If the matter needs your input, then be contactable so that you can deal with the matter there and then, rather than leaving the matter to your return to the office, so at least you can enjoy your holiday, knowing there is nothing urgent waiting for you at the office. Apart from that, try not to check-in to work all the time. It is difficult to switch off, and you may not be able to do so, but try and limit any work-related activities to once or twice a day.’
Sophie Khan, Sophie Khan & Co
‘My number one piece of advice is to tell every client a couple of weeks in advance that you are going to be away and making sure they know the status of their matter. Nothing annoys clients more than contacting you and finding you are not there. If you let them know you might even get their blessing and well wishes for a nice break. Use tech to help you manage so you can switch off: a good email out-of-office message telling everyone exactly how to reach you in an emergency and outsource your calls to a service like Moneypenny so you are still open for business when you are not there. Check your emails maximum once daily at the end of the day if you cannot delegate.’
Karen Jackson, Didlaw
‘One way of balancing the perceived demands of your practice and the expectations of family and friends with whom you are holidaying might be to ration your use of your smart phone. You might simply go online for a few minutes every day or two. If you have the luxury of qualified staff looking after your matters, then leave them to do so. After all, you’ve trained them well, done holiday notes and facilitated a seamless handover. At best, they’ll think that you’re a nuisance if you keep bothering them. At worst, they’ll feel you don’t trust them.’
Tony Roe, Tony Roe Solicitors