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Janine Milne

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Stress slays two in five staff in smaller firms


Stress is taking a huge toll on UK smaller businesses, affecting morale, absence levels and performance, finds a report.

More than 40% of the 500 senior managers from UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) said that stress had impacted their business in 2012, according to Zurich Insurance’s SME Risk Index. 
One in five of the SMEs said absence levels had risen over the last two years by up to 30%. Similarly, a quarter reported that stress had caused a drop in morale last year as continuing economic uncertainty piled the pressure on SMEs. 
“It is perhaps not surprising that the fragile business climate has had such an impact on workforce stress and morale, and if these issues aren't addressed they could have serious long-term consequences for business stability and performance,” said Richard Coleman, director of SME at Zurich Insurance.
Stress levels look set to soar further, as nearly half the respondents believed they would face even more risk this year compared to 2012. 
Many Rutter, a psychologist at employee assistance provider Validium believes the recession has had a profound effect on workers’ mental health. “We’ve got a really toxic combination of anxiety about jobs and jobs changing. Some people are underemployed because they’ve taken a job that require less skills than they have. Then you’ve got managers who have huge pressure to deliver profits with less staff and so are less able to attend to individuals with problems," she said.