The balancing act: How SMEs can prioritise wellbeing

With Brexit uncertainty rumbling on, business investment has fallen as a recession threatens to surface. The implications of this for the economy and big business are largely recognised, but what attention is being paid to the SMEs trying their best to survive these testing times?

Research from the University of St Andrews suggests that SMEs are likely to be hit the hardest. Adding to this, our research shows that 80 per cent of business leaders worry that their work-life balance is negatively affecting relationships with family and friends, while a third struggle to find enough time to spend with their children. With the impact taking a toll on the mental and physical wellbeing of those running SMEs, as well as their employees, measures need to be taken to ensure SMEs prioritise their own wellbeing as well as their business.

Don’t fear switching off

With technology now readily available at every turn, switching off at the end of the day seems to be a thing of the past. This has brought a shift in culture, whereby the expectation to be contactable around the clock is the new norm for business owners and their employees. Whether it’s a laptop, tablet or smartphone, with technology at our fingertips, it is all too tempting to ‘just’ check-in and see if anything has come up since leaving the office. There will always be instances where this can’t be avoided, be that an unexpected crisis or a customer query just can’t wait. However, when rarity turns into routine, SME leaders are putting their mental and physical wellbeing at risk. Rather than taking much-deserved time out of the office, business leaders feel compelled to be constantly tuned into what is going on in their professional lives. Dedication and strong work ethic will always be the backbone of successful SMEs but falling into the downward spiral will be to the detriment of the leader and in turn the wider business.

Avoiding the domino effect 

As employees naturally see business leaders as ‘leading by example’, they often find themselves looking up to and emulating those in leadership roles. That is why the ‘one last check’ mentality that sees business leaders firing off emails at midnight can set an unrealistic precedent for the rest of the team. Unknowingly starting a chain reaction, employees then feel the need to respond to emails in the middle of the night or get in early to get ahead of things before their shift beings. Adding stress to already testing times has the potential for unforeseen health issues to arise and for things to just get too much – all because SMEs leaders hadn’t taken care of their own work-life balance. With this domino effect left unresolved, issues can arise that SMEs will find hard to overcome.

The balancing act

This is where resilient SME leaders can make a significant difference, understanding the importance of balancing their own work-life balance and that of their staff.

Harvard Business Review suggests that the work-life conflict is a primary contributor to increases in poor health, decline in productivity and unsatisfied employees.  To take control and end the cycle, solutions must be organisational, and all levels of business need to get onboard.

This research also suggests that making ‘non-work’ time more visible and supported encourages others to do the same and demonstrates the importance of life outside the office. Whether its openly encouraging lunch breaks, discussing upcoming holidays or talking about outside of work responsibilities, the openness of ‘non-work’ time can be linked to increases in work-life balance acceptance throughout a workplace. 

SMEs can help their strive for work-life balance by finding partners who understand that both emotional and pragmatic support can make the world of difference. Having someone impartial highlight the value of prioritising a work-life balance, can be the push business leaders need to take note and reflect upon their actions.

SME leaders shouldn’t forget that small changes can make a big different, especially when it comes to wellbeing. The resilient among us will do what they can to be the change and champion that sees their entire business balance the act of work and life.

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