A huge 87% of business owners worked longer hours in 2021 due to the pandemic, with many struggling to find a work life balance. 

The annual 2022 Business Challenges report carried out by digital payments specialist takepayments, shows how much the pandemic has thrown the world of work on its head. The past 18 months have been difficult for many Britstrying to regain their work-life balance. As more people work remotely or on flexible hours, the traditional 9-5 work schedule is no longer as relevant as it used to be, blurring the lines.  

The study of 1,000 small business owners and decision makers finds that only 13% of business owners and leaders feel they have a good work-life balance. The research revealed that the number of rest days and total hours worked in a week are huge factors in this.  

Only a third (35%) of owners and leaders manage to have two work-free days per week, and less than a quarter work 48 hours or less in a week. 

The long hours seem to be taking its toll on business owners, as those who state they have a good work life balance has declined year on year. In 2019, before the pandemic, 59% of SME owners were happy with their work life balance, showing a steep 46% decline over the past few years.  

The cities with the worst work life balance  

Small business owners in Norwich are the least happy with their work life balance as a mere 6% say they have a good balance. Manchester is a close 2nd with only 7% claiming to have a good balance. 

This isn’t surprising as 75% of Norwich SME owners state they work more than 48-hours per week and just over one third (37%) state they get at least two rest days during a week.  


Cities with the worst work life balance 
City  Percent of SME owners who have a good work life balance 
Norwich  6% 
Manchester  7% 
Plymouth  8% 
Oxford  8% 
London  9% 
Newcastle  10% 
Glasgow  11% 
Stoke on Trent  11% 
Nottingham  11% 
Birmingham  13% 


The cities with the best work life balance 

Belfast SME owners are the happiest with their work life balance as 23% believe they have a good work life balancewith 42% having at least two rest days and nearly a quarter (23%) working a 48-hour week or less.  


Cities with the best work life balance 
City  Percent of SME owners who have a good work life balance 
Belfast  23% 
Edinburgh  21% 
Cardiff  20% 
Leicester  19% 
Sheffield  19% 
Bristol  16% 
Cambridge   14% 
Liverpool  14% 
Brighton  13% 
Leeds  13% 


Sandra Rowley at takepayments said: “The past few years have been challenging for business owners across all sectors, with severe disruptions in business operations from both Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic impacting upon work life balance.  

“It is interesting to see momentum building as trials of the four-day working week are being rolled out. Over a third of SME’s say it would have a positive impact on their business. This has risen by 5% since last year, while the number who believe it would have a negative impact has decreased.” 

The full findings of the takepayments 2021 Business Challenges Report are available to view here.