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Overwork of SMEs’ employees could come at the cost of their health

Written by Josh Russell on Monday, 11 August 2014. Posted in HR, People

Employees of SMEs may be an incredibly hardworking bunch but new research shows their health and wellbeing could be suffering as a result

Overwork of SMEs’ employees could come at the cost of their health

There’s no denying that keeping a business alive requires a huge amount of hard work from all involved. And whilst corporations also require their fair share of blood, sweat and tears to stay afloat, the razor-thin margins of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) mean they cannot survive without their employees going the extra mile. Sadly this means that the success of SMEs may come at the expense of their employees’ long-term health.

New research released by AXA PPP healthcare has revealed quite how many of us are burning the candle at both ends to keep our businesses afloat. Surveying 1100 employees of SMEs, the private medical insurance provider has revealed that nearly half of employees regularly work four or more hours overtime a week and 29% put in a hefty seven hours or more a week. Unsurprisingly, the majority of this additional time is for the sake of the business and goes unpaid, with 52% drawing no additional money for their extra effort.

None of this is likely to come as a massive shock for anyone who has worked for an SME but  it does seem all this additional work is taking a toll on our personal lives. The survey found that 27% of SME employees have cancelled time with their families and friends to prioritise work, with 18% saying that in the last three months they had missed events concerning their children such as parent’s evenings and school plays. Meanwhile, over half of those with young children need to return to the grindstone once they have put them to bed.

“Small and medium sized business are the backbone of the economy – driving innovation, enterprise and growth,” said Glen Parkinson, SME director of 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,” Parkinson continued. “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.”

Fortunately, AXA PPP healthcare also provides advice on promoting employee wellbeing to balance out the more negative impacts of all their hard work. It recommends ensuring employees are able to attend medical appointments during working hours, fostering a workplace culture that supports a healthier lifestyle and the taking of regular breaks, training of managers to spot signs of stress, anxiety and depression and providing additional resources to those who are struggling to cope.

Taking on board all of this advice should ensure that Blighty's SMEs find themselves with healthy and productive workforces for years to come. 

About the Author

Josh Russell

Josh Russell

As editor, Russell is the man in charge of properly apostrophising our publication and ensuring Oxford commas are mercilessly excised. Our digital doyen, he’s also a Photoshop Pro, a dab hand with InDesign and the man to go to if you need a four-hour soliloquy about the UK's best silicon startups.

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