19 February 2015

More than a quarter of small business owners in the UK regularly work more than the maximum 48-hour week set out in the EU Working Time Directive (not that it applies to them, of course, if they are genuinely self-employed).

However, whether prescribed by law or not, AXA Business Insurance suggests that time management is a significant issue for owners of small firms, with 68% exceeding the standard 35-hour working week, 25% putting in 51 hours or more, and 3% working an 80-hour week.

Something as simple as making lists, or as potentially complicated as using technology or trusting employees more are identified by AXA's research as ways that overworked business owners could bring these hours down and manage their time better.

Commenting on the results, Darrell Sansom, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance, expressed concern about the number of people who frequently put in more late nights and early mornings than is considered safe or reasonable.

Research shows that productivity declines after a 50-hour week, he pointed out, with extended working bringing increased health, safety and reputational risks.

"No one is invincible," Mr Sansom said, "and if you are regularly struggling to fit everything into your day, it might be time to take a step back, reflect and re-prioritise the key things that will protect your business and help it grow."

As well as the suggestions above, AXA’s top tips on time management also include outsourcing difficult parts of the business.

Despite the risks associated with longer working hours, Axa’s survey of 350 small business owners found that most enjoy what they do and would rather work long hours for themselves than put in a shorter week for someone else.