Stress among business leaders dropping: Survey

Employers adjust to more realistic performance goals
||Last Updated: 03/02/2012

Levels of stress felt by business leaders have dropped to their lowest annual increase since 2005 according to a global survey of 6,000 businesses from 40 economies (including Canada) released by Grant Thorton International.

In 2010, net 45 per cent of business leaders reported an increase in stress levels over the previous 12 months but this fell to 28 per cent in 2011. The pattern is consistent in many parts of the world — except Canada where net 18 per cent of business people reported an increase in stress levels, slightly higher than last year (16 per cent) but still below historical levels (such as 2007, when net 29 per cent reported an increase in stress).

Net 20 per cent of business leaders in the United States cited an increase in stress in the last 12 months, compared with 36 per cent in 2010, found the Grant Thornton International Business Report.

At the other end of the scale, Asia Pacific is the most stressed region, with net 44 per cent reporting an increase in stress over the past 12 months, down from 58 per cent in 2010. Even in Europe, where the focus of economic turbulence resides, the net increase in stress has declined from 40 per cent in 2010 to 22 per cent this year.

"As the economic crisis has continued, the majority of business leaders have learned to better manage the challenges they are facing, including dealing with stress by adjusting to more realistic performance measures and goals," said Ed Nusbaum, CEO of Grant Thornton International. "What we are seeing from our clients across the globe is more effective management of this economic volatility and uncertainty. Businesses have also learned to analyze risks better, factoring them into their performance, and are setting themselves more realistic targets. And, of course, some businesses are faring well despite the bleak economic backdrop."

Reaching performance targets is by far the biggest headache for businesses, found the survey, as globally, 30 per cent of business leaders cited it as the major cause of workplace stress, and it is ranked highest in 37 of the 40 economies covered by the survey (with Canada at 28 per cent).

Stress caused by the volume of communications (11 per cent globally and nine per cent in Canada), office politics (11 per cent globally and 16 per cent in Canada) and work-life balance (nine per cent both globally and in Canada) are much less cited, found Grant Thornton.

Forty-two per cent of business leaders take a holiday to relieve stress, found the survey. Canada does much better at 58 per cent. Those countries where businesses take the fewest vacation days — such as Japan, mainland China and Thailand — reported the biggest increases in stress. Conversely, business leaders in the Netherlands, Russia and Denmark took the most days off in 2011 and reported the lowest increases in stress.

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