All work and no play - the life of an SME

POSTED: 10th July 2017
IN: Newsroom

More than half of UK SME leaders (52%) have five or less days holiday a year

  • A fifth (21%) of all UK SMEs leaders did not have any time off last year and an additional three in ten (31%) had only between one and five days off;
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of small business bosses still answer emails and calls constantly during their holidays;
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of UK SME leaders would like to see their employees use up all their annual leave.

The Aldermore SME Future Attitudes report reveals today that bosses in more than half (52%) of all small businesses – representing 2.86million* firms in the UK said they only took five days holiday or less during all of last year, with a fifth (21%) not taking any days off at all.

Trying to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ before going on holiday is clearly a challenge for any business leader. The report, which surveyed over a thousand senior business decision-makers across the UK, found that over a third (35%) of SME leaders do any outstanding work while they are away, (33%) pass work over to their colleagues and a fifth (21%) end up cancelling days off to ensure the work is completed.

For those business leaders who eventually make it to their holiday destination, many mix business and pleasure. London bosses are worst offenders with three in 10 (30%) responding to emails and calls regularly. Those from the North West seem to be better at switching off, with only 16% answering work messages, and over a fifth (21%) not checking in at all. On a national level, almost a quarter (24%) of small business bosses are still very much involved in day-to-day communications during their holidays.

Top four most common regions for answering business emails and calls whilst on holiday


% of SME owners who answer business emails and calls the whole time whilst on holiday



East Midlands


West Midlands




Despite the most senior people in the UK’s small and medium sized businesses not being able to take as many holidays as they deserve, just over seven in 10 (71%) like to see their employees use up all of their annual leave. Only one in six SME leaders (17%) do not proactively encourage their staff to take time off.

Carl D’Ammassa, Group Managing Director, Business Finance at Aldermore, said: “Small business owners are clearly passionate about what they do, so it is no surprise that they find it hard to leave work behind when they are meant to be on holiday.  We also know that in this modern day and age it can be a challenge to totally switch off from work as technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch.

“It is however worrying that so many business leaders do not take their annual leave entitlement. Their entrepreneurial spirit and hard work is vital to the success of not only their own business but also the wider UK economy.  It is crucial they take proper breaks to achieve a good work life balance and avoid burn out. Enjoying well-earned time off to recharge their batteries could bring a fresh perspective to their business thinking.”

The Aldermore Future Attitudes study can be found here.


For further information, journalists can contact:

Carmel McCarthy, Aldermore
Phone:            020 3553 4216
Mobile:            07464 644754

Chantal Heckford
Mobile:            07801 748683

Notes to Editors:

The full SME Future Attitudes Q2 2017 insight report report can be read here.

Research conducted by Opinium Research between 28th April and 8th May 2017 with a nationally representative sample size of 1,003 senior decision makers in SMEs.

* 2.86m SMEs figure – calculated using Federation of Small Business statistics that say the UK has 5.5m SMEs (2016 figures).  Aldermore Future Attitudes research showed that 52% of SMEs have 5 or less days holiday a year. 52% of 5.5m = 2.86m

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