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Study shows small business owners are risking burnout

New research has found that many SME leaders are “close to reaching boiling point” at work.

The poll of 500 small business owners and decision-makers by Advanced reveals that one in five admits to feeling under pressure all the time and 65% say they struggle to switch off. Almost half (48%) blame a lack of time for the pressure they are under at work.

Business owners are handling stress in different ways: two-thirds say they use stress-busting rituals, such as deep breathing exercises and reciting positive affirmations. In addition, 30% say they would consider counselling to deal with stress, 19% would seek medical help and 53% would take time out from their job.

“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 Alex Arundale, group HR director at Advanced. “But it also sends a clear message - business owners/managers … are being overworked and those that don’t take time out to refuel could face burnout.

“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Nearly half (46%) of respondents admit they get short-tempered when under pressure, while 18% become withdrawn. Other stress indicators include not being able to sleep (experienced by 52%) and getting ill (30%).

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester 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.”

Cary Cooper’s top stress-relieving tips for business owners are:

  • Recognise the signs of stress. Common signs include struggling to sleep or having trouble making decisions;
  • Learn how to destress. Find a technique that works for you and stick to it;
  • Take a digital detox. Finish work on time and, on a regular basis, set aside time at home to turn off your mobile phone and laptop;
  • Prioritise wellbeing. There is more to life than your business - always put your health first;
  • Take good advice. Don’t suffer alone. Delegate work and listen to the people that are close to you.