Almost a fifth (15%) of SME leaders in professional services admit to feeling under pressure at all times, according to research by Advanced, a British software and services company.

The research found 61% of the 504 respondents do not switch off or struggle to switch off. Almost two-thirds (61%) cited the lack of time as the primary source of their work pressure.

Just under half (46%) of respondents, which comprised of senior decision makers at SMEs, said they would consider seeking medical help or counselling support if they felt under pressure and 60% said they would consider taking time out from their job.

Advanced group HR director Alex Arundale said: “It’s encouraging to see that most leaders of professional service firm recognise when they are under pressure at work, with many getting help when they need it.

“But it also sends a clear message – business owner mangers responsible for the UK’s economic backbone are being overworked and those that don’t take time out to refuel could face burnout.”

A majority of respondents (83%) noted their behaviour changes when under pressure, of which 55% said they get short tempered and 28% isolate themselves or become withdrawn. An additional side effect of the pressure felt by SME leaders was an inability to sleep (46%).

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The University of Manchester’s business school professor of organisational psychology and health said: “SME leaders are their own worst enemy. They don’t like delegating and they worry about their organisation, which can be damaging to both people and business.

“The digital era is making it worse too. Leaders take their smartphones with them all the time and don’t hesitate to work while on holiday or when with family at night. Switching off is critical and that means taking a proper break to recharge. Otherwise, these leaders will get ill – especially if they’re under pressure all the time as Advanced’s research suggests.”