A new study finds that most UK business owners are out of touch with the causes of stress for their staff:

  • 96% of business owners surveyed think ensuring employee pay reflects inflation amid the cost-of-living crisis is not a main cause of stress for their employees.
  • 3% will take the cost-of-living increase into consideration in their employee’s pay reviews.
  • 66% would consider paying a fair salary to suit inflation, being mindful of expenses to support financial wellbeing.


A study released by the UK’s leading speaking bureau, Speakers’ Corner, today found that most UK business leaders fail to understand the stressors their staff face. The study canvassed the nation-wide view of 500 business owners and/or directors with at least 20% equity, for companies with at least 100 employees, on current work force trends. The research revealed that while leaders are not recognising the impact of the cost of living/soaring inflation on their staff’s stress levels, this is not down to apathy.

The data released today illustrates that businesses are aware of employee stress and interested in making changes that will aim to evade stressors but are misinformed about the causes of stress among their staff. As 92% of respondents feel they currently provide support for their employees’ wellbeing, recent research contrarily found that 16% of employees are having to consider a second job to make it through 2023, with the current cost of living.

According to business owners surveyed, the top 5 main causes of stress for their employees are:

  • Heavy workload (26%),
  • Long hours (24%),
  • Tight deadlines (22%),
  • Job security (21%) and
  • Changes to job role (20%).

This, amid the soaring inflation and cost-of-living crisis facing the UK workforce, reveals that leaders believe the stressors for their employees are directly aligned with their own stressors, listed as:

  • Heavy workload (26%)
  • Long hours (21%)
  • Tight deadlines (25%)
  • Job security (21%)
  • Changes to job role (22%)

So, it becomes clear that this lack of effective support felt by employees is not a lack of willingness or compassion from leaders in relation to workplace stress, but of misunderstanding the needs of staff; and with over half respondents (56%) agreeing that their business has been open to grant pay rises to employees who are no longer financially secure after the cost-of-living increases, one of miscommunication.

Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers’ Corner comments: “The research shows a chasm between employers and employees. With the cost-of-living at the top of the news agenda and the rising mortgages announced this week, all of us are facing difficult times and what is needed is a better flow of communication. Because the other side of this is that the business owners themselves face work stress, only for the reasons listed above and not for the same reasons as their employees.

“In the face of recession and the knock-on effect it will have for the British economy and productivity, business owners themselves face challenges- including understanding and motivating their teams. This can be difficult as there is a split in perspective; while employers are focussing on ensuring the business survives through the recession over the next few years, their employees struggle with the day-to-day impacts of inflation and rising cost-of living.

“It is arguably the assumption that employees stress about the same things as business owners that has caused this disconnect. But what seems to be missed here is that understanding your team and their needs can lead to a happier and more productive team, which in turn will relieve stress for those in charge.”

Ultimately, the data revealed that just 3% of respondents will take the cost-of-living increase into consideration in their employee’s pay reviews. However, 62% of those who wouldn’t, would not do so because of the time needed to implement and not because they do not think it is necessary. And almost contrarily, 66% of respondents would consider paying a fair salary to suit inflation. This means the issue is not a question of leaders being apathetic to their employees’ needs, but a misunderstanding of what is needed.