Fewer than 15% of Australian business leaders consider themselves stressed, new research shows, as the latest National Australian Bank survey reveals small- to medium-sized enterprises reported improved confidence in the December quarter.
The Grant Thornton International Business Report, based on global research of 6,000 businesses, shows 13% of Australian business leaders describe themselves as “stressed” or “very stressed”.
This compares with 28% globally.
Bill Shew, Grant Thornton Australia partner for privately held business, says in light of global economic conditions, business leaders have learnt to better manage the challenges they’re facing.
Shew also believes Australian businesses have a clear advantage over other businesses.
“Australian business owners are removed from the worst of the global uncertainty simply due to our distance from Europe – our domestic economy and our dollar remain strong,” he says.
“Australian businesses have also learned to analyse risks better, factoring them into their performance, and are setting themselves more realistic targets.”
The IBR indicates that reaching performance targets is by far the biggest headache for businesses. Globally, 30% of business leaders cite it as the major cause of workplace stress.
In Australia, it accounts for the stress of 25% of business leaders. However, the pressures of work/life balance are felt much more keenly in Australia than overseas (20% versus 9%).
The news comes on the back of the latest NAB Quarterly Business Survey, which shows SME business confidence improved in the December quarter, but remains soft.
Business confidence improved from -10 points in the September 2011 quarter to -3 points in the December quarter.
“It appears that firms took some relief from the RBA’s two rate cuts late last year but global economic uncertainty remain the most important concern for SMEs,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster says.
According to Oster, confidence strengthened across all firm sizes, although high-tier firms ($5-10 million per annum) are now the least pessimistic SME segment.
“Business confidence improved in high and low-tier ($2-3 million per annum) SMEs in the December quarter, while it weakened a little in mid-tier firms ($3-5 million per annum),” he says.
By industry, confidence improved significantly in small transport, accommodation, construction, and cafés and restaurants, while it weakened slightly in retail, health and business services.
Confidence improved across most states but was “generally fairly poor” everywhere. NSW is now the least confident state in terms of near-term activity.
Meanwhile, business conditions improved across all industries in the December quarter, except for business services and health.
Conditions improved significantly in transport, property and retail, but were strongest in finance, health and accommodation, and cafés and restaurants. Conditions were weakest in wholesale, retail and construction.
“By state, conditions improved in WA, Victoria and South Australia. That said, Victoria was the only state to report positive conditions, while conditions were weakest in NSW and South Australia,” Oster says.