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Owners and employees of Britain’s small and medium sized firms have reason to be proud – they make up 99.9 percent of the UK private sector’s businesses, employ nearly three-fifths of its workforce and account for 48 percent of the turnover.*
But, according to our poll of SME employees, full-on pursuit of commercial success may be putting them at increased risk of ill health and burnout.**
Nearly half (47 percent) of the 1100 employees we surveyed said that they regularly work four or more hours of overtime a week, with 27 percent putting in seven or more extra hours a week. For over half of the people who regularly work overtime (52 percent), the extra hours are unpaid.
Long working hours can often be embedded into SME culture. Our findings showed that a fifth (22 percent) of respondents take fewer than 30 minutes for lunch, with 12 percent ploughing on without stopping for a lunch break at all. And by putting the business first, 19 percent have cancelled time with friends and family in the past three months due to working over and above their contracted hours.
Parents in particular can feel the pinch. For those with children living at home, 19 percent have missed a child’s event such as a parents’ evening or school play in the past three months and, for those with younger children, over half (54 percent) have continued to work after putting them to bed.
“Small and medium sized business are the backbone of the economy – driving innovation, enterprise and growth,” says Iain McMillan, SME Director at AXA PPP healthcare. “Their commitment is commendable yet our study shows that owners and bosses may be putting themselves and their employees at increased risk of burnout and ill health through protracted overwork.
“Most owners and bosses of small and medium sized firms recognise the link between health and wellbeing and productivity,” McMillan continued, “and many are acting on the insight by providing benefits such as healthcare cover and access to counselling helplines to help employees deal with the pressures in their lives.
Mental health remains a concern, however: 71 percent of survey respondents who’d been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as stress, anxiety or depression said they wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to people at work about it, highlighting the stigma associated with the condition. And 42 percent of sufferers said their employer had failed to give them adequate support to deal with their condition.
“There is hope, however,” McMillan adds, “and, as a leading provider of employee health support services, we know from experience how important the early intervention of experienced healthcare professionals can be in helping employees to deal with psychological issues, which, if neglected or delayed, can lead to lengthy spells of sickness absence.”
“A focus on wellbeing can help smaller and medium sized firms to thrive. Owners should prioritise their own health and the health of their employees as much as they prioritise their pursuit of commercial success,” he said.
Here are some helpful tips to promote wellbeing in your business:
*Business population estimates for the UK and regions 2016, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategyhttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/559219/bpe_2016_statistical_release.pdf
**Online survey of 1100 people working for small and medium sized firms (of up to 250 employees) throughout the UK undertaken in March 2014 by market researcher Redshift.
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