New research from Yorkshire Bank, part of CYBG plc, suggests businesses should look north for guidance on achieving a better work-life balance and reveals the country’s happiest entrepreneurs live in Leeds and Edinburgh, along with Leicester. The majority (62%) in those cities rate themselves as happy in their day to day working lives, with 14% very happy. While in Sheffield, the same number rate themselves as happy, although fewer (10%) say they are very happy in their day to day working life.
In comparison, just over half (58%) of small business owners across the UK rate themselves as happy. The findings come from a unique piece of research, taking into account the opinions of 2,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs in the UK’s 10 largest cities and across a range of sectors, which compares insights into work-life balance, growth ambitions, innovation, dynamism and diversity.
Despite having some of the happiest cities, the north is also home to some of the most stressed business leaders which offers an interesting juxtaposition. Given the current economic climate, it’s no surprise that stress is widespread among small business owners nationally with 85% saying they are stressed to some level at work. But Liverpool has close to twice the average level of acute stress with 14% saying they are very stressed. Just 14% of small business owners surveyed do not feel stressed at all.
On the surface the contrast above offers seemingly contradictory results – the north is home to the happiest yet also some of the most stressed business owners. Offering one explanation for this contradiction, Yorkshire Bank can also reveal that UK small business owners, particularly in the north, know how to handle their stress. Three quarters (75%) of those included in the research use mindfulness techniques to manage their stress levels. Glasgow and Birmingham are the capitals of meditation with 36% participating in this activity, while in Birmingham four in five (80%) business owners practice other mindful exercises.
London is the least mindful city: more than a quarter (27%) of business leaders here said they do not use any such techniques to reduce stress.
Gavin Opperman, group banking business director CYBG, said, “What this research indicates is the resilience of the UK’s small business owners. With so much uncertainty on the horizon, it’s easy to assume that SMEs are seeing the cup half empty, yet our research findings are refreshingly positive. The fact that many northern cities are home to some of the most stressed business leaders, but also the happiest is quite remarkable, indicating they’re managing their stress well and have got the right balance.
“Running a business is tough and UK SMEs are the backbone of our economy at a tumultuous time. Yet despite this, our data has shown that many business leaders still hold the importance of downtime and happiness in high regard. It has a knock-on effect in terms of business profitability, aspirations, and the culture of an organisation. We don’t know what the future holds beyond Brexit but we do know that small business leaders are by no means defeated. I’d encourage SMEs to think bigger and expect more, of themselves, from the wider business outlook and from their business community.”