A mere 9% of small-business owners take two weeks off for vacation, yet psychologists say that long holidays make us more productive at work.

Americans are notorious for not taking vacations—just look at the numbers if you don’t believe us. In 2015, 41% of Americans took zero vacation days. Of small-business owners, 9% take a full two weeks of vacation.

This attitude toward vacations has concerned psychologists for years now. While planning a long weekend or short vacation is better than nothing, it can take up to four to five days for the brain to disconnect and the mind to relax. In fact, taking two weeks to one month off isn’t just good for your spirit; research indicates that it makes you more productive at work too.

Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of work and organizational psychology at the University of Mannheim, has studied countless individuals and their work-life balance. Her research reveals that taking a mental and emotional break from work is not just important. It is essential for maintaining high levels of performance.

She writes that her research has “identified recovery from work as an important mechanism that explains how employees can stay energetic, engaged, and healthy, even when facing high job demands.”

And what industry is widely known for its tough and consistent job demands?

Restaurants and cafés are places of respite for people, and they serve to develop the culture of a town or region. Without restaurants, one could even argue that there can be no metropolitan life. Yet employment in the restaurant world often translates into limited to no vacation time.

As a restaurant owner or manager, you must work to fight the bad habits of the industry, and that includes around-the-year around-the-clock work schedules.

Photo by Josephine Amalie Jensen

Five Ways You Can Take a Vacation While Running a Restaurant

We get it. Vacation anxiety is a real thing. There are dozens of surprises that occur when you’re at work, so what could happen when you’re not there?

But there are real benefits to taking a vacation, and as you read above, being a better boss at work is one of them. To take advantage of your time away, you need to set guidelines that will help your business run efficiently—and that will let you relax while you’re away. Not only will you come back energized and inspired, but you will be performing at your highest level!

Below are our five suggestions for how to enjoy a stress-free vacation.

Put the Right Person (or People) in Charge

Knowing your restaurant has been left in good hands is not just good for your peace of mind. It is quite literally great for your restaurant. Select a manager who is reliable, consistent, and able to be in charge while you’re away. That person doesn’t have to be a veteran at your restaurant, either. Choose someone who will find a solution to problems while always taking care of your staff.

Before you leave, sit down with your temporary replacement a few times. You want to go over routine and surprise scenarios. Allow him or her to ask any questions. Be clear in the limit of his or her authority, and explain which situations your temporary replacement may make the final call on without notifying you first.

Determine How Frequently You Will Communicate with the Team

The level of autonomy you are willing to give the team is at your own discretion. Only you know how self-sufficient and competent they are. Take some time beforehand to decide how often you want to keep in touch with your staff while away. Clarify that you’re going on vacation, and while you are available for an emergency, you do not want excessive calls.

Don’t go overboard on checking in. According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, “U.S. workers who email for work and who spend more hours working remotely outside of normal working hours are more likely to experience a substantial amount of stress on any given day than workers who do not exhibit these behaviors.” (Daimler, a German auto maker, came up with an unusual way to address holiday emails: Delete them.)

Give the team a pep talk before you leave, and explain that you trust them to manage the restaurant well, the way they were trained to. This will leave them feeling confident and secure in your absence.

Set Boundaries for Yourself

The hardest part about disconnecting from your restaurant will be not knowing what’s going on at all times. That uncertainty can be disconcerting at first, yet it is essential that you allow yourself a mental break from your work life to enjoy your personal life. Don’t call your restaurant at all times of the day. For starters, your staff will be busy running the restaurant. Instead, decide in advance when you will review your emails and take calls, and stick to that schedule. It can be right when you wake up, or in the afternoon. Once you decide on when, stick to it, so you can enjoy the remainder of your day in peace.

Avoid Missing Big Holidays

Your spouse and children might get to benefit from national holidays like the Fourth of July, but you might not. There are hundreds of other days you can take off to enjoy a vacation. By sticking around for the big holidays, you get to shine in two ways:

  1. You can let some of your staff take off instead, giving you “cool boss” points.
  2. You are available during what could be the busiest days of your year.

One way you can work around needing to work on the big days is to send your loved ones ahead to start the vacation without you. Then meet them after work!

Do as Much as You Can Beforehand

Have you been avoiding old emails or taking inventory? Or do you need to make an important order? Take care of these tasks before leaving. The problem with procrastinating is that it’s so easy to do when you have so much to occupy your thoughts. All that changes when you go on vacation. Your head starts to clear, your mind bounces to different points of interest, and suddenly you have time to think about all the things you left behind, undone.

Make an effort to cross everything off your list so that you can wholly disconnect.

One Last Piece of Advice

Don’t forget about your staff. Everyone deserves a break. Encourage your team to take days off, and you will reap the benefits upon their return.

On-shift exercise is another way to stay healthy and energetic.