New Zealand business owners appear to be declining holidays so that they can support their businesses during these stressful and uncertain times.
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) that surveyed 6,000 businesses worldwide, including New Zealand, showed that New Zealand had one of the biggest reductions in holidays taken by business people in the last year.
Pam Newlove, National Director, Privately Held Business, for Grant Thornton New Zealand, said that in the last year the average number of days taken off by business people dropped from 18 to 13. Only Japan with a drop from 13 to five days off showed a greater change.
“By the very nature of our culture, we expect to have a good work/life balance, but this may be at the expense of our standard of living, which most people are not prepared to accept,” she said.
In the survey New Zealand led the world in the percentage of business people struggling with this work / life balance at 21%, just ahead of Australia at 20% and well above the global average of 9%.
“These results probably reflect the greater pressure that business owners are under to meet goals and targets and when a business is under pressure there is an even greater need for owners to work longer and stay closer to the business to resolve issues quickly for customers and/or pick up on new business opportunities.
“It has become very clear over the last few years that business owners are working a lot harder for every dollar of profit that they earn,” she said.
The reduction in holidays could also be due to lower staffing levels in many businesses so that it is harder for employers to take a break.
“Another indicator of how New Zealanders struggle with the work/life balance is that only 23% looked at better controlling the regularity of their hours worked compared with Australia 38%, United States 50%, United Kingdom 56% and Global 35%,” she said.
The survey revealed that global levels of stress felt by business leaders and owners have shown their lowest annual increase since 2005, with New Zealand no exception. New Zealand businesses showed a 15% increase in stress levels in 2011, down on the 28% in 2010, 34% in 2009 and 36% in 2008.
Globally there was a 28% increase in stress levels in 2011, down from 45% in 2010. Asia Pacific was the most stressed region with net 44% reporting an increase in stress over the past 12 months, but this too is down from 58% in 2010. Even in distressed Europe, where the focus of economic turbulence resides, the net increase in stress has declined from 40% in 2010 to 22% in 2011
“Interestingly, stress levels in Australia are on the increase. In 2010 there was only a 12% net increase in stress levels comapred with 23% in 2011, making it one of the few countries in the world where stress levels are growing more rapidly that the year previous.
“Another interesting aspect is that BRIC/APAC countries are experiencing greater stress (43% and 44%), which is probably indicative of the ever-changing environment that these economies are facing due likely to the uncertainty arising from economic challenges in Europe leaving business owners wondering what the longer term impact will be on their business.”
For New Zealanders, playing sports and exercising emerged as the main way that business people dealt with stress with 80% of participants citing this as their key strategy. Finland 92% and Netherlands 86% were the only two countries ahead of New Zealand in this aspect. For Australia it was 65%, the United States 79% and the United Kingdom 68%. The global average was 62%.
“Another good stress relief for New Zealanders appears to be to delegate with 67% of business leaders using this strategy, placing us seventh among the 40 countries surveyed, well ahead of Australia (44%), United States (51%), United Kingdom (62%) and a global average of 35%,” she said.
Other findings included:
- New Zealanders tend to entertain at home rather than go out as a means of relieving stress – 69% entertain at home to relieve stress, while 47% like to go out to relieve stress, compared with 52% and 38% for Australia, 63% and 65% for the United States and 72% and 52% for the United Kingdom. The global average is 54% and 46%.
- 36% of New Zealanders include DIY as a stress reliever – Australia 28%, US 52%, UK 65% Global 18%
- Shopping as a stress reliever– New Zealand 23%, Australia 22%, US 12%, UK 32% Global 19%.