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Business leaders in need of break

Tuesday, 21 December 2010 | By Michelle Hammond

Four in 10 business and government leaders show signs of anxiety, depression and other personality disorders, a new study has found.

 

Travis Kemp, the business psychologist who conducted the study of 132 people, says executives are suffering from mental health issues as a result of increased pressure to perform in the wake of the GFC and a work culture that values profit over people.

 

“The predominant view is that about 20% of the general population at any given time or at some point in history have a mental health issue... It’s double that in the executive population,” Kemp says.

 

He says executives and people in senior roles need more support because “it’s a lonely job at the top.”

 

“They don’t have a lot of support around them but have a very high level of accountability. And being the people they are, they tend not to ask for support either.”

 

Beyondblue deputy chief executive Clare Shann says in addition to more support, business leaders should take a break at several points in the working year.

 

“To be a good leader, to be a good manager, you need to maintain your own health and wellbeing and that includes your mental health,” she says.

 

Shann’s comments come on the back of another survey, which shows 30% of small business owners did not take a break from their business this year.

 

The survey of 325 small business owners and managers was conducted by independent consultants StollzNow Research. It was conducted for Telstra Business in conjunction with the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia.

 

According to the survey, 64% took one week’s leave or less during 2010. Of those who took no leave, just under half said they had no backup to run their business or did not have time to take a break.

 

When questioned about their health and work/life balance, 34% admitted to suffering from business-related health problems in the past year.

 

Of those who felt stressed running their business this year, 64% named financial pressures as the leading contributing factor while 59% blamed their inability to take time off from their business.

 

Telstra Business executive director Cathy Aston says technology has prevented small business owners from switching off from work.

 

“While new mobility solutions have provided tools that enable business owners to get away from their office and spend time with family and friends, there are still many who are unable to escape the pressures of work,” Aston says.

 

COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong says the survey highlights the pressure on small business owners.

 

“Small retail businesses tell us they are concerned they will lose existing business if they take a break,” he says.

 

“Governments at all levels must ensure red tape is kept to a minimum for small business so sole traders and owner-operators can enjoy a holiday for their health.”