'Tis the Season for work-life balance according to Canadian SBOs

American Express survey reveals 91% of SBOs encourage a healthy work-life balance

MARKHAM, ON, Dec. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - It's no surprise that as a segment, small business owners (SBOs) are challenged when it comes to separating their work life from their personal life. However, as SBOs head into the holiday season, the importance of encouraging work-life balance amongst employees, and in their own lives, is strong.

The quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor reveals more than three quarters (78%) of SBOs leverage the holiday season to re-establish balance for themselves and their employees. As such, leading up to the December timeframe, the majority (73%) of SBOs are more flexible allowing employees the opportunity to participate in seasonal activities. In fact, results reveal almost half (40%) of SBOs close down entirely until the New Year, giving employees time off.

"It's clear that small business owners are not only recognizing the need for work-life balance for themselves, but also for their employees, and are using the holiday season as an opportunity for everyone involved in their businesses to 'reset'," says Athena Varmazis, VP & General Manger, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. "The Ebenezer Scrooge approach to work seems to be long gone. Instead, today's SBOs foster a balanced approach to continue to motivate employees and offer a positive work environment."

SBOs experience guilt when disconnecting from their business
Despite work-life balance being an important issue for SBOs, they continue to struggle with managing their desire to be available at all times. While the majority (63%) of business owners believe they have a healthy balance, more than half (58%) feel guilty when they take time off. Additionally, 63 per cent of SBOs report checking their phone at least once or twice a day when on a vacation of more than a couple of days.

This not only creates a strain on their personal relationships, but can also affect their health.  Nearly half (48%) of SBOs report having suffered from work-related stress in the past year to the point it's impacted other areas of their lives.

"One of the great characteristics of a business owner is they often view their business as a passion rather than work," says Varmazis. "As a result, we're seeing business owners challenged with fully disconnecting and achieving work-life balance."

SBOs advocate for balance amongst their employees  
Business owners are not only prioritizing work-life balance within their day-to-day, but are also trying to lead by example for their employees. While they recognize there is room for improvement, they are implementing tactics to better encourage it amongst employees. Two-thirds (66%) of SBOs report employees not taking all of their allotted vacation days leads to burn-out and lower productivity. As such, SBOs are limiting the number of vacation days employees can carry over and reminding them throughout the year about their remaining vacation days.

"Business owners are taking the time to focus on providing their staff with the essential tools to achieve a healthy balance in their work and personal life," says Varmazis. "They also recognize the value employees place on flexibility and leverage it to attract and retain staff."

Additionally, over half (53%) of business owners state promoting work-life balance within their company is a tactic they leverage to attract new talent and keep current employees.

SBOs have a refreshed outlook on the financial state of their business
As SBOs head into the last quarter, they are displaying signs of a renewed perspective when it comes to business growth. This quarter's index results revealed an increase in their business outlook, returning to a higher optimism level of this time last year. More than half (59%) of SBOs remain hopeful about their future financial position, an increase from last quarter (44%) as well as last year (52%).

While 46 per cent of SBOs report their business' current financial position is improving, this number has also shown a significant increase from November 2012 (38%). Additionally, more than one-fifth (22%) of SBOs willing to take above average or significant risks for their business in the next six months also increased over the past year (November 2012, 20%) demonstrating that SBOs are showing signs of stability for the remainder of 2013.

"Over the past quarter, we've seen a significant increase in optimism levels amongst SBOs. As a result, SBOs feel more secure as they wrap up the year," says Varmazis. "While Canadian business owners have been reluctant throughout the year, they appear to have a restored and positive attitude as they plan for the future."

About the American Express Small Business Monitor
From October 11 to November 1 Rogers Connect Market Research conducted an online survey on behalf of American Express Small Business Services with a sample of 633 Canadian small business owners each employing between 2 and 100 people. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.9%, 19 times out of 20. In order to ensure the results are representative of the entire population of small business owners in Canada, the data have been statistically weighted for small business by region according to Statistics Canada. Respondents were located across Canada and came from a variety of industries, including health, social services, education, tech, sales and skilled trades. Due to rounding, some results may add to over 100 per cent.

About American Express Small Business Services
American Express Small Business Services (SBS) is dedicated exclusively to the success of small business owners and their companies. SBS supports business owners with exceptional service. We offer tailored products and services that deliver, flexibility, cash flow management and rewards to help customers run their business. Specifically, business owners can leverage an enhanced set of products, tools, services and savings, including charge and credit cards, robust online account management capabilities and savings on business services from an expanded line-up of partners. To obtain more information about SBS, visit www.amexforbusiness.ca or www.facebook.com/AmefforBusiness.

SOURCE: American Express

For further information:

For further information or a full copy of the report, please contact:

Isabella Mise, (416) 644-2293

Christina Peck, (416) 644-2295

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