Small business owners in the UK work an average of 2,366 hours per year in order to make their business a success, compared to 1,950 for an average UK employee, according to new research* by Opus Energy.

The research found that on average, SME owners work 45.5 hours per week, and that more than half (56%) work either six or seven days per week. If a full-time working week is recognised as being 37.5 hours, this means that the average small business owner works a staggering total of 416 hours or 17.3 full days’ overtime per year.

Closer analysis reveals – perhaps to the surprise of some – that millennial entrepreneurs work the longest hours on average. Defying the label of the ‘snowflake’ generation, 18-34 year old entrepreneurs work an average of 49.4 hours per week, resulting in 619 hours or 25.8 days’ overtime per year.

By comparison, small business owners aged 35-44 claim to work an average of 46.4 hours per week, which results in 463 hours or 19.2 days overtime per year. 45-54 year old entrepreneurs, meanwhile, were found to work the least, putting in an average of 45.3 hours per week (406 hours or 16.9 days’ overtime per year).

The extra time that Brits are ploughing into their business is so severe, that to put the sheer scale of it into perspective:

  • They could fly from London to New York 52 times**
  • They could watch every episode of The Apprentice twice***
  • They could learn a new language****

This revelation comes despite the fact that 29% of entrepreneurs actually started their own business in order to achieve greater control over their workload and time. That said, just a fifth (21%) of 18-34 year olds cited this reason, as opposed to more than a quarter (27%) of 35-44 year olds and two-fifths (40%) of 45-54 year olds.

Instead, nearly half (46%) of millennial entrepreneurs claimed to start their business in order to follow their passion, as opposed to just three-in-ten (29%) 35-44 year olds and a quarter (24%) of 45-54 year olds.

Nikki Flanders, Chief Operating Officer at Opus Energy, commented:

“It’s worrying to think that entrepreneurs are having to sacrifice such a vast amount of time in order to make their businesses successful. Not only do British entrepreneurs risk burning out, but we also risk potential business owners putting their start-up aspirations on hold, so as not to jeopardise their personal lives. SMEs are vital to our economy and we must ensure that entrepreneurs have the support required to succeed. There are valuable resources available from organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses, which will help entrepreneurs to avoid situations whereby they must rely solely on themselves.”

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The research also revealed that even with the vast amount of overtime that they put into their business, holiday is a luxury that some entrepreneurs can’t afford. Fourteen per cent of all entrepreneurs say that they don’t take any time off and a quarter (23%) say that they have to work even when on holiday.

*Research undertaken by Vitreous World in July 2018. Sample consists of 505 SME owners throughout the UK, with 167 retailers included.

**Flight-time of 8 hours 15 minutes

***188 episodes (60 mins each)

****FSI research indicates that it takes 480 hours to achieve fluency in a language

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