‘Always on’ culture affecting SME bosses

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 06 August 2018

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SME leaders are “close to reaching boiling point” at work, according to new research.

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One in five SME owners feel under pressure all the time

A study of 504 SME owners and senior decision-makers commissioned by software and services company Advanced found that one in five feel under pressure all the time.

65% of respondents said they either don’t or really struggle to switch off while 48% blamed lack of time as a key source of their work pressure.

The research also found that 30% would consider counselling support if they felt under pressure, 19% would seek medical help and 53% would take time out from their job.

Two-thirds of respondents said they have stress management rituals, with a third performing deep breathing exercises, 12% reciting positive affirmations and a tenth practicing laughing and smiling.

“It’s encouraging to see that most leaders recognise when they are under pressure at work, with many getting professional help when they need it,” said Advanced HR director Alex Arundale.

“But it also sends a clear message – business owner managers responsible for the UK’s economic backbone are being overworked and those that don’t take time out to refuel could face burnout.”

She added: “A level of pressure is normal and can in fact be good for us sometimes, but consistent high pressure isn’t sustainable and can hamper the running of a successful business.

“On a personal level, it can also lead to a work-life imbalance, negatively impacting relationships in the workplace and at home, as well as affecting both their physical and mental health.”

Nearly half of respondents said they get short tempered when under pressure while 18% said they isolate themselves or become withdrawn. Other indicators highlighted by the study of SME leaders being under pressure included not being able to sleep (52%) and getting ill (30%).

Cary Cooper, professor of Organisational Psychology & Health at the University of Manchester’s business school, said: “SME leaders are their own worst enemy. They don’t like delegating and they worry about their organisation, which can be damaging to both people and business.

“The digital era is making it worse too. Leaders take their smartphones with them all the time and don’t hesitate to work while on holiday or when with family at night. Switching off is critical and that means taking a proper break to recharge.”

Cooper added that to better handle the ‘always on’ culture, SME leaders should learn to recognise the signs of stress in the workplace, remember to put their health before their business, find their own stress management rituals, take good advice from family and colleagues, delegate work, and take a digital detox on a regular basis.

A raft of print and related companies, including Communisis, Prinovis and TH Jordan, have set up their own in-house mental health employee assistance services or buddy schemes to help staff in need.

Additionally, the likes of The Printing Charity and The British Association for Print and Communications (BAPC) can offer support and signposting to services that can help people further.

BAPC chairman Sidney Bobb said: “Expectations have increased over time and there is so much pressure on people today. People feel that they have to be quick and they have to be switched on all the time.

“But people don’t like opening up – they may open up to complete strangers but not necessarily to people that they know. If somebody comes to us for help, we will take the time out to meet them, give them a shoulder to cry on and let them make their own decisions.

“If they would like to talk to somebody, we would try to find a professional that could be of assistance to them.”

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