Would it kill your small business if you took a vacation? What would happen if you gave your small business employees a vacation too?

One of the most challenging aspects of owning a small business is figuring out how and when to take a vacation. And, as hard as it is for you to go on vacation, it’s just as tough to figure out how to cover the office, store, or shop when you have so few employees to fill in for those who are headed to the beach.

Although no paid vacation is required by law, the majority of small businesses give employees paid time off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67 percent of companies with 49 employees or fewer provide paid vacation. The average number of paid days after one year of service is 9 days and 13 days off after 5 years of service.

While more Americans are taking more vacation than they have in years, almost a quarter of American workers haven’t taken a vacation in over a year, according to Project: Time Off.

I suspect you—and possibly your employees—fall into this category. Well, it’s time to change that. Let’s get out there and relax.

Here’s why:

** Less stress. Never taking a break leads to higher levels of stress, for both you and your employees. Taking a vacation gives you a chance to catch your breath. Vacations are like going to sleep after a hard day’s work. You need some down time.

** Increased productivity and creativity. Vacations give you a chance to recharge your batteries and get perspective on your work. You come back with renewed energy and ideas.

** More job candidates. A full 76% of all employers provide paid vacation days. If you’re not one of them, you’re at a significant disadvantage in attracting good workers. Paid vacation is one of the most sought-after perks.

** Increased employee retention and loyalty. Once you have found great employees, you want to do everything you can to keep them. Providing paid vacation and actually encouraging employees to take the time they’re entitled to shows you’re committed to them and increases your reputation as a good place to work.

OK, but how can you get the work done while you or employees are away?

** Cross train employees (and yourself) on different tasks so all critical jobs can be covered while someone is out. That may not be practical if you’ve only got one chef for your restaurant, but that shows where you’re overly dependent on someone.

** Plan vacations far in advance so you can schedule projects and customer jobs around vacation schedules.

** Let key customers know the time you’ll be unavailable or short staffed, so they’re not surprised.

** Close the shop. The world will not come to an end if you put up a “Closed for Vacation” sign on your store or website for a week or two.

When’s the best time to schedule vacations?

** When your work load is lightest. Duh. In my company, our biggest customers are colleges and universities, so no vacations as schools gear up for Fall and Winter terms. But early July? That’s definitely our slow season and a good time for people to be out of the office.

** In your off-season. Many businesses are seasonal. So this is a no-brainer. If you run a pool cleaning business, your employees are going to work summers but could have a nice long Christmas break.

** When employees’ kids are off school. As long as you don’t conflict with your company’s business times, enable employees with children to have their vacations align with their kids’ holidays to make trips possible.

Face it: the timing is never good to get away from a small business. But if you or your employees never take vacation, both your business and your health will suffer.

Remember, the word “recreation” comes from “re-create.” Your employees and you need to take time off to re-create your ideas and your energy. So you—and them—take a vacation, kick back, see some inspiring scenery, travel someplace new, plant a garden, or even read some books. Recharge. Reflect. Renew.

Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018

This article originally ran in USA Today on June 27, 2018