New Zealand business owners recorded one of the biggest reductions in holidays last year, with employers working harder to support staff and reduce stress levels, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report.

The average number of holidays taken by business people was 13 compared with 18 a year earlier. Only Japan recorded a larger decline with a drop to five days from 13 days, the survey of 6,000 businesses worldwide showed.

See more of the research here.

The survey found 21 per cent of New Zealand business people are struggling to attain work/life balance, just ahead of Australia on 20 per cent and well above the global average of nine per cent.


"It has become very clear over the last few years that business owners are working a lot harder for every dollar of profit that they earn," said Pam Newlove, national director for privately held businesses at Grant Thornton.

"By the very nature of our culture, we expect to have a good work/life balance, but this may be at the expense of our standard of living, which most people are not prepared to accept," she said.

Newlove said the reduction in holidays could also be due to lower staffing levels making it harder for employers to take a break.

Global stress levels increased at their lowest rate since 2005, with New Zealand stress levels increasing 15 per cent, down from 28 per cent in 2010.

For New Zealanders, playing sport and exercising were the main ways to deal with stress, with 80 per cent of participants citing this as their key strategy, while 36 per cent of kiwis included DIY as a stress reliever and 23 per cent cited shopping.

New Zealand bosses ranked seventh out of the 40 countries surveyed for their ability to delegate work to employees, coming in well ahead of Australia, the US and the UK.