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Nearly half of SME employees have quit jobs because of work-related frustrations and stresses that weren’t addressed

New Process Bliss research reveals the extent and causes of stress for staff in UK small businesses

One-third of respondents also admitted to calling in sick because of work-related stress, according to the new report ‘Causes and implications of workplace stress in SMEs’ from software firm, Process Bliss. The main sources of SME workplace stress were having to chase colleagues for updates (33%) and a lack of information or clarity when asked to do something (31%). Other sources of workplace stress cited were a lack of control over a situation (28%), a lack of guidance/direction from the boss (26%) and a lack of response to emails (25%).

“Many of these issues come from people not being given sufficient training or a functioning process to follow that enables them to do their job well,” said Alister Esam, CEO, Process Bliss. “At the same time, managers are checking up on, and micro-managing staff because they have no way of seeing whether employees are following that process correctly. This harassment is stressful, contributing to a culture of mistrust and causing people working at SMEs to leave in significant numbers.”

“The biggest problems, a lack of clarity from management when asking for something to be done or a lack of guidance from the boss, simply should not be factors in workplace stress. They are easily avoidable by providing the right training or having functioning processes to work with.”

Supportive processes

With almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents admitting they were not clear about all of their company’s processes, training and process management are clearly key issues for business managers to solve. The most common process failures were employee/new starter onboarding, procurement and credit-checking, while HR disciplinary processes and customer onboarding were also cited. Such process failure was having a significant impact on the business too – 43% say their company has lost customers because of failed processes.

“Many companies document their processes, but it is clear that many employees aren’t aware of that fact or find them inaccessible,” continued Alister Esam, CEO, Process Bliss. “As a result, they effectively operate without them which leads to errors, micromanagement and mutual distrust between staff and bosses. A process must be supportive and usable to employees rather than a document that nobody reads. This ensures employees have all they need to do their jobs, nurtures greater levels of trust for managers and reduces workplace stress.”

38% of respondents say that working for a small business was more stressful than working for a bigger firm, while 32% say they do not feel trusted in the workplace, suggesting there is much work still to do in addressing SME workplace stress.

“Doing more to reduce stress in the workplace is hugely important and should be a key priority for SME bosses during 2019 – staff retention is vital,” concluded Alister Esam. “Employees do their best work when they are motivated, engaged, trusted and work in a reduced-stress environment and leave a job when they are unhappy and demotivated. Workplace stress can come from many different sources and while no boss can eliminate stress completely, there are lots of measures that can be put in place to ensure day-to-day frustrations are reduced.”

About the research

An online survey of 1,000 employees within UK small businesses was undertaken by TLF Research in December 2018.

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