reducing stress in SME’s

According to Safe Work Australia7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, equating to around 6% of workers’ compensation claims, and approximately $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.


They attribute the stress to:

  • high job demand
  • low job demand
  • poor support
  • poor workplace relationships
  • low role clarity
  • poor organisational change management
  • poor organisational justice
  • poor environmental conditions
  • remote or isolated work, and
  • violent or traumatic events.

This is madness.  All of the above can be changed or managed differently by leaders with the right set of skills.

And this is not just in the corporate world. In fact, firms in Australia employing more than 200 people takes up only 0.2% of Australian businesses. Approximately 60% of businesses in Australia have no employees. That leaves us with 40% of businesses in Australia employing anywhere from 1 to 199 people. That’s a lot of people and that places a huge responsibility in the hands of our SME business owners.

I can’t say this better than Simon Sinek “Good leaders understand that they have a responsibility for the people inside their organisations. Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of those in your charge. You can’t lead a company; you can onlylead people.”

So, what can SME business owners do to combat this workplace stress epidemic? Here are 3 tips for all SME’s that will move your business in the right direction.

  1. Have your mission, vision and values in place

Company mission vision and values have been around in the corporate world forever. Back in the 90’s I worked in the financial services industry and remember going to the ‘ra ra’ events with values and mission being everything – for one day. Then there was never follow up, the words were stuck on a wall and were completely meaningless. The silent message was “we say that but actually do this”.

The MVV need to be powerful, meaningful, engaging and exciting. And they are a critical piece of the business puzzle – in fact they underpin the entire picture of the business. Get your leaders or the entire team together and language what is already there, get ideas of how you want the business to be. Make the words come to life – take them from a noun to a verb! What I mean by that is take the statement “High customer service’ (how boring and really? Isn’t that a no brainer?), to “we make exceptional things happen!” Then you link everything thing you do in the business to the MVV!

  1. Upskill your Leaders

There is often a focus on the continual development of people’s professional skills. “PD” days, higher qualifications, industry conferences and so on. These are obviously necessary for the progression of the individual and the organisations success. However, what is so often forgotten or not given enough attention is the transition of the skilled worker to them becoming an effective leader.

There are a lot of one day seminars you could send leaders to, but in my experience, they are great for a few days but the energy fizzles with the reality of day to day and the skills are not embedded in the leader. Upskilling leaders requires time, training and coaching. They need to learn, implement, make mistakes, debrief and repeat!

  1. Develop a common language

Brene Brown stated it best; “language is a place of struggle; a shared vocabulary starts the conversation”. We are misinterpreting the meaning behind the words that are spoken on a daily basis. We hear it through our perception which can create a nightmare. Firstly, we must understand how we deliver and receive communication. Then embed a shared language within the entire organisation. This can remove judgement and misunderstandings and get to the heart of what people are saying.

Reducing stress in all workplaces is the responsibility of those that have people in their charge. Having a purpose, a vision and shared values aligns people to a meaningful workplace. Upskilling our leaders in the art and science of leading people and creating a shared vocabulary will shift your organisation in the right direction of reducing people’s stress level, allowing them to live a more fulfilled life.

And really, aren’t we all here to have a fulfilled life?