If you work in or own a retail business, either online or on the ground, feelings of burnout this time of year aren’t surprising. Given you’ve been running ragged since Black Friday, it’s downright justified.
According to a recent QuickBooks survey of self-employed online retailers, the holiday season is nothing if not a whirlwind of activity. Nearly 1 in 5 of those surveyed say they make 30 percent of their profits between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One in 10 makes 50 percent of their sales during this time.
With numbers like those, it’s no wonder retailers listed these struggles as their top five during the holiday season:
- Finding time for themselves
- Finding time for family
- Not being able to relax or enjoy the holidays
- Not having enough time or money to buy gifts
It seems that those who work the hardest to help others enjoy the holidays are least likely to find the relief they need during this time themselves. And that’s why we’re talking about breaks. It’s time retailers start a new holiday tradition: using January as a time to recharge the batteries for a more productive, more innovative, more successful year.
January is the new June
For children, few months are more anticipated than June and the start of summer vacation. As they get older, that need for a break becomes stronger, amplified by end-of-year exams, presentations, and report cards. It’s a push to the finish, much like the holidays for those working in retail.
But while the busiest time for children might be the months leading up to summer, for retailers, November and December may as well be SATs, AP exams, and finals week all put together.
That’s why it’s so important for retailers to think of January as the time to breathe, and the good news is it’s also the best time to put the business on hold.
According to a 2017 YouGov survey, saving money is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions among adults. After a crazy (and expensive) season of purchasing gifts, decor, and fruitcake, consumers feel the need to take a break — and give their bank accounts some relief.
Perhaps that’s why, historically, January is always a bit of a slump for retailers, particularly those selling cars, online goods, and furniture. And considering that slump, there is no better time for retail workers to close up shop and take a much-deserved breather.
Vacation or staycation?
According to that QuickBooks freelance retailers survey, 25 percent of respondents say they’re not able to take a vacation during the holidays. But once December is over, all bets are off, and it’s time to make a critical decision: stay in town or change up the scenery.
If getting out of town sounds like the best balm for your soul, you’re in luck. January is traditionally one of the cheapest months of the year to travel. According to Travel+Leisure, cities like Boston and Chicago offer travelers a 50 percent savings or more on hotels, compared to the most expensive time of the year.
While most vacationers pick up their best fares from sites like Expedia or Hotwire, we recommend checking out Scott’s Cheap Flights. The best version is the $39 annual subscription, but the fee is worth the savings. Plus, the site offers free resources, with tips on how to spot a once-in-a-lifetime mistake fare.
If staying home is more your speed, make the most of your free time by unplugging from business-related communication. The New York Times offers these fabulous staycation tips, including booking a private tour (it’s always the nearby sites that we overlook) or splurging on a local luxury hotel.
Looking for something a little less elaborate? Pound Place reveals that 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 consider trying new food and drink to be the most pleasurable part of taking a vacation. If that’s you, why not make a day of exploring the cuisine in your area? Make a map of five low-cost restaurants you haven’t tried, and order an appetizer from each. It’s a vacation for your palate!
Time off isn’t time wasted
Sometimes, the hardest part of taking a break is getting over the mental hurdle that time off is time wasted. But experts say that isn’t true. In a recent webinar on PTO policies, Michael Goldberg, a manager on the people operations team at Namely, had this to say:
“Overwork is a problem that actually tends to lead to decreased performance [and] more mistakes … After analyzing Namely’s vacation and performance review data for employees, a correlation quickly emerged. Employees who take more time off tended to have higher, not lower, performance ratings,” he said.
Besides better performance, Michael says workers who take time off are also more productive and less stressed, which may help unlock some of that previously untapped creativity and problem-solving power.
Barbara Fredrickson, psychology professor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found something similar. “Whether through play, exploration, or similar activities, positive emotions promote discovery of novel and creative actions, ideas, and social bonds,” she says. This, “in turn, [builds] that individual’s personal resources; ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources.”
In a nutshell, Fredrickson believes taking a little time to relax and recharge those emotional batteries isn’t just good for your physical self — it makes for more innovative ideas and strategies too. And when pointed toward building up a more profitable business, that open-minded, creative strategizing may be just what your company needs to thrive over the next year.