Win back time: the most crucial thing an SME owner can do

Advanced workplace stress sponsored

Business leaders frequently operate under intense pressure, but a busyness culture can hamper your productivity and stunt your firm’s growth, warns Alex Arundale, group HR director at Advanced

Alex Arundale, Advanced

Alex Arundale

We are in a busyness crisis. Most owners and decision-makers in SMEs – our nation’s economic backbone – are working at 100mph.

Many are constantly in overdrive, juggling all the day-to-day tasks of leading their organisations while also dealing with the fall-out from the General Data Protection Regulation and the uncertainties of Brexit.

When Advanced surveyed 500 SME leaders nationwide in July, a fifth of respondents admitted to feeling under constant pressure at work. Nearly half (48 per cent) of these cited a lack of time as the key source of this pressure.

What’s more, the findings of a recent survey by Direct Line suggest that small business owners and sole traders in this country are under so much pressure at work that almost 1.5 million of them have felt unable to take a holiday in the past 12 months. Simply put, SME leaders are just too busy.

Granted, the life of a director just keeps getting more complex, demanding and noisy. But busyness is neither a healthy trend nor a badge of honour. Being busy has sadly become a synonym for success when it is in fact a drag on the whole organisation’s productivity.

When a leader becomes frenetic, it rubs off on their team. Pressure of work has a big impact on people’s behaviour: 46 per cent of the respondents to our survey admitted to becoming short-tempered under stress; 40 per cent said that they found it much harder to prioritise and make decisions; and 18 per cent said that they isolated themselves from their colleagues.

When leaders feel pressured, their negative reactions will filter down through the organisation, exerting a detrimental effect on staff morale, motivation and productivity.

Efficiency drivers

A director who is overwhelmed by busyness is also likely be seen as having poor time management, delegation and project management skills. So how can busy leaders ensure that they don’t turn into bad leaders?

The first move is to take a step back from traditional working values and understand the true strategies behind reducing the pressure of work.

Is there an expectation in your organisation to work long hours, for instance? Do your employees find you unapproachable because they see you as too busy – or even because you tell them that you’re too busy?

In order to give back valuable time to the business and its people, leaders need to consider how their approach to working cascades through the organisation.

They should enable employees to work smarter, not harder – through flexible working, for instance – and understand the positive role that technology can play in improving teamwork and increasing productivity.

Ultimately, our nation’s business leaders need to stop, rethink the way they work and consider how they can operate more efficiently.

If leaders see the impact that busyness has on their business and act to alleviate workplace stressors, they’ll be able to make better decisions and empower every employee to concentrate on the important work at hand.

This can only be a good thing, as a better leader will make a better business – one that’s ready to recharge and reshape for whatever new challenge that’s thrown at it.

For more details about Advanced and its survey of SME leaders, visit

About author

Director commercial and sales

Director commercial and sales

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