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Never clocking out!

Small business owners in the UK work an average of 2,366 hours per year in order to make their business a success, compared to 1,950 for an average UK employee, according to new research* by Opus Energy.

The research found that on average, SME owners work 45.5 hours per week, and that more than half (56%) work either six or seven days per week. If a full-time working week is recognised as being 37.5 hours, this means that the average small business owner works a staggering total of 416 hours or 17.3 full days’ overtime per year.

Closer analysis reveals – perhaps to the surprise of some – that millennial entrepreneurs work the longest hours on average. Defying the label of the ‘snowflake’ generation, 18-34 year old entrepreneurs work an average of 49.4 hours per week, resulting in 619 hours or 25.8 days’ overtime per year.

By comparison, small business owners aged 35-44 claim to work an average of 46.4 hours per week, which results in 463 hours or 19.2 days overtime per year. 45-54 year old entrepreneurs, meanwhile, were found to work the least, putting in an average of 45.3 hours per week (406 hours or 16.9 days’ overtime per year).

The extra time UK business owners feeding into their business is so severe, that to put the sheer scale of it into perspective:

They could fly from London to New York 52 times**They could watch every episode of The Apprentice twice***They could learn a new language****

This revelation comes despite the fact that 29% of entrepreneurs actually started their own business in order to achieve greater control over their workload and time. That said, just a fifth (21%) of 18-34 year olds cited this reason, as opposed to more than a quarter (27%) of 35-44 year olds and two-fifths (40%) of 45-54 year olds.

Instead, nearly half (46%) of millennial entrepreneurs claimed to start their business in order to follow their passion, as opposed to just three-in-ten (29%) 35-44 year olds and a quarter (24%) of 45-54 year olds.

Nikki Flanders, Chief Operating Officer at Opus Energy, commented:

“It’s worrying to think that entrepreneurs are having to sacrifice such a vast amount of time in order to make their businesses successful. Not only do British entrepreneurs risk burning out, but we also risk potential business owners putting their start-up aspirations on hold, so as not to jeopardise their personal lives. SMEs are vital to our economy and we must ensure that entrepreneurs have the support required to succeed. There are valuable resources available from organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses, which will help entrepreneurs to avoid situations whereby they must rely solely on themselves.”

The research also revealed that even with the vast amount of overtime that they put into their business, holiday is a luxury that some entrepreneurs can’t afford. Fourteen per cent of all entrepreneurs say that they don’t take any time off and a quarter (23%) say that they have to work even when on holiday.

The Harvard Business Review reported on a Covey Center for Leadership study that investigated the emerging length of the American workweek. Surveying more than four hundred executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs, they discovered that the average business leader works a 72-hour week. So the age of the 40-hour workweek has gone the way of the dodo bird.

Meanwhile, in a joint pole, Gallup and Wells Fargo found that 57% of small business owners work six days a week.  And over 20% of them work seven days a week.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You can achieve more while working less. But, to make that possible, you have to make sure that the less you do matters more.

That's where our study comes in.

When we evaluated the work habits of business owners and their key executives, we discovered that time-wasting, low-value and no-value activities accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks.

The business leaders that were polled spent 6.8 hours per week on low value business activities that they could easily have paid somebody else £50/hour or less to handle for them. That means that they were wasting almost a full workday each week on these activities -- activities that they could have paid somebody else to do at an hourly rate far lower than their own.

- They wasted 3.9 hours each week indulging in what we might call escapist "mental health breaks" --streaming YouTube videos and checking social media.

- They wasted 3.4 hours a week handling low-value emails and 3.2 hours a week dealing with low-value interruptions that easily could have been handled by someone else on staff.

- They spent 1.8 hours a week handling low-value requests from co-workers and another 1.8 hours a week putting out preventable fires.

- Finally, they spent an average of 1 hour each week sitting in completely non-productive or wasteful meetings.

Total that up and we're looking at 21.8 wasted hours each week -- hours that are going up in smoke while you're doing things that contribute little to no value to your company. Depending on the length of your workweek, those wasted hours could account for as much as one third of your time.

So we want to challenge you to ask yourself how much time you waste on activities like this.

How could you better structure your day, your week, and your quarter so that more of your best attention goes to those things that matter?

*Research undertaken by Vitreous World in July 2018. Sample consists of 505 SME owners throughout the UK, with 167 retailers included.

**Flight-time of 8 hours 15 minutes

***188 episodes (60 mins each)

****FSI research indicates that it takes 480 hours to achieve fluency in a language

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