Small business owners in the West Midlands are having to work longer and longer hours and cancel holidays to cope with the pressures of the credit crunch.

Two new surveys have revealed the extent of the effect the economic downturn has had on working hours.

And a local business body said the working conditions could even be a health hazard to businessmen and women, and would lead to job losses.

A spokeswoman for the Federation of Small Businesses in the region said: “There is a danger that people can kill themselves.

“A break from business is always a good thing because people can become tired and overworked.

The pressures are that they are having to work longer and longer hours to keep costs down, and this is going to have an effect on employment, I think.

“It also comes back to the levels of increasing legislation. It gets more and more time consuming to meet the legislation requirements that are in place.

“And the effects will become ever more evident as businesses look to cut their margins.”

It was revealed this week that entrepreneurs in the West Midlands are clocking up an average of almost 50 hours every week, according to a survey into the work life-balance culture of Britain’s small business managers by Bank of Scotland Business Banking.

Overall, Britain’s 1.4 million small businesses are collectively putting in an extra 31.2 million ‘working weeks’ each year. For many small business owners, the burden is only likely to increase with three in 10 in the West Midlands expecting to work longer hours for the remainder of the year as a result of the economic climate.

Two-thirds of small business owners in the West Midlands claim to feel very stressed by the increasing burden of running their own business.
Peter Wood, head of strategy and products at Bank of Scotland Business Banking, said: “Given that the stakes are so high, it comes as no surprise that Britain’s entrepreneurs are burning the midnight oil to try and make a success of their business.

“Unfortunately, however, there is a clear downside to the pursuit of success for some small business owners with increased stress levels. We know, from our own experience of working with small businesses, that one of the biggest problems they face is the amount of time spent dealing with administration and regulation.”

Other findings from the work-life balance survey show that the considerable hours being invested by the West Midlands’ entrepreneurs are biting into other aspects of their lives, as one in five small business owners is not even likely to take a full week’s holiday this year.

Another survey, from Lloyds TSB Business Insurance, painted an even bleaker picture, saying one in five businesses in the Midlands had not taken a single day off in the last year.

While freedom, flexibility, and control over the hours you work were cited as the main advantages of setting up your own business, respondents stated a lack of time available to go on holiday as one of the main drawbacks.