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Stressed at work

Research Reveals Impact of Brexit on SMEs

Sarah Beldon Blog, News

  • Four-fifths of SMEs expect income to fall because of Brexit
  • 55% admit to high levels of stress in the workplace
  • 72% of SMEs are worried about business rates, and 63% are concerned about late payments

New research (1) from Onecom, the UK’s largest business telecommunications provider, reveals eight out of ten SMEs expect their income to fall because of Brexit. Nearly one in three SMEs (30%) say concerns over Brexit could force cutbacks in their recruitment plans, and one in four (25%) expect Britain leaving the EU will see them reduce the size of their overall workforce. Some 15% are worried that the fall-out from a bad Brexit could put the survival of their business at risk.

Concern over Brexit helps explain why 55% of SMEs say stress at work is currently high, and 51% anticipate the situation will become worse between now and 2021. Only 6% expect work stress levels to fall over the next two years.

The research found several other factors giving concern to SMEs. When asked what their three biggest concerns are, business rates (72%), late payments (66%) and access to finance (61%) rose to the top. Business rates have placed an additional financial burden on many shops, pubs, restaurants, factories and offices since its revaluation in 2017 – the first since 2010 – putting many of them out of business.

In addition, some 56% of SMEs are worried about an inability to recruit top talent, and 49% are concerned about red tape.

Concerns Percentage of SMEs worried about this
Business rates 72%
Late payments 63%
Access to finance 61%
Recruitment 56%
Red tape 49%

Despite these concerns, growth in the telecommunications sector remains healthy as SMEs strive to keep pace with new emerging services. A recent piece of analysis conducted by Onecom found that SMEs average yearly spend on telecommunications services has increased by 40% since 2016.

Ben Dowd, Onecom CEO, said: “Work can be difficult at the best of times, as an SME ourselves at Onecom we’re well placed to recognise the stresses and strains. But it can be made more difficult when facing pressures from challenges beyond your control, such as Brexit.

“Many small business owners have also seen a significant increase in their operating costs since the last revaluation of business rates, while the scourge of late payments threatens to damage growth prospects of affected businesses. The telecoms industry is responding to these pressures by offering opportunities to our clients to lease hardware and take out finance options.

“SMEs account for a massive 99.9% of the UK’s 5.7 million private sector businesses and are therefore vital to a healthy economy and jobs market. It’s why it’s so important that we support our small businesses with leading technology solutions and a variety of choice to help future proof their business comms and make them as efficient as they possibly can be.”

(1) Onecom commissioned Consumer Intelligence to interview 208 workers, self-employed individuals and small business owners to interview them on their key business concerns and stress level. The survey was conducted on 22nd May 2019.