Stress could be considered the primary cause for long-term absence, as job insecurity and financial instability weigh heavily on the workplace. According to 19 per cent of respondents, workforce absence levels have risen over the past two years, with 12 per cent reporting more short-term stress-related absences of less than four weeks in the last year.
Small companies with ten to 49 employees faced 27 per cent more sick absences than the norm, while medium-sized companies with 50 to 249 employees suffered an absence rate of 30 per cent. This suggests that the impact of stress on absence could be an increasing worry as businesses become larger and more established.
Low morale is often the early warning sign of job stress. Face it, if you’re stressed at work you probably won’t be happy. A quarter of SMEs surveyed reported lower morale amongst their employees due to workforce stress, raising to 27 per cent and 39 per cent amongst small and medium businesses respectively.
With almost 47 per cent of British SMEs claiming to face more risk at present compared to last year, the impact of such pressures on the small business workforce is becoming apparent. The negative effect of stress levels, low morale and staff absence could be set to continue unless the economic environment improves.
Addressing workforce challenges and risks is becoming an essential part of achieving better performance and greater growth for UK SMEs. If these issues aren’t addressed then they could have serious long-term consequences for business stability and performance.
Not all is doom and gloom as the prospect of a stronger economic environment and expansion of business in the UK have been cited as the two biggest opportunities for 2013.
Richard Coleman, director of SME at Zurich Insurance, said: “People are the lifeblood of any business, regardless of size. Looking after them by ensuring that stress levels are balanced and morale is kept high is vital if a company is going to attract the most skilled employees and retain existing talent. Companies that do this will be best positioned to take advantage of future improvements in the economic environment.”
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