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Job satisfaction levels high in London.

SME employees in the UK to remain optimistic in 2012.

Despite the economy slipping back into recession and growing concerns about the eurozone, employees of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK remain positive, optimistic about the future and happy in their jobs in 2012, according to a new survey report from Bibby Financial Services.

In the survey of 500 businesses, 24 per cent of SME owners and managers throughout the UK reported a rise in motivation levels among their staff in the first quarter of 2012, a small increase on the previous quarter of 3 per cent.

Some 43 per cent said they are hopeful for the future and consider their businesses to be in better shape than ever.

London has seen the highest level of positivity with 42 per cent of owners and managers reporting happier staff. This was followed by people working for SMEs in Yorkshire and the Humber (34 per cent) and South East England (26 per cent).

As per the survey, 25 per cent of employers in the North East said their staff had been more positive during the first quarter of 2012, up from 11 per cent at the end of the last quarter of 2011. Reflecting the national picture staff contentment levels among firms in the South remained constant at 24 per cent.

Elsewhere, the survey found the East Anglia to be home to the highest drop in morale with just 11 per cent of managers observing a rise in their workforce’s motivation levels, compared with the same time last year when the figure was 43 per cent.

A contrasting picture surrounding job satisfaction levels also emerged between employees in Scotland and Wales, with  32 per cent of Welsh managers saying they had seen an upturn in staff morale compared to just 11 per cent north of the border.

Edward Winterton, executive director at Bibby Financial Services, said: "We conducted this research as we believe the issue of staff morale is intrinsically linked to the stability of any business. It is still a difficult time to keep staff feeling optimistic about their future prospects and if business owners are worried about cash flow problems or a lack of new customer orders that has a direct impact on staff.

"We have been working with SMEs for more than 27 years and understand how important it is for businesses to operate on a stable basis, including having access to funding - a facility such as invoice finance can help to maintain a healthy cash flow and support future growth."

The research also found that the outlook for business owners and managers is likely to remain equally challenging in the coming months with 21 per cent employees saying they are prepared to take unauthorised time off during this summer’s events, while many businesses are bracing themselves for a rise in staff absenteeism during the forthcoming Euro 2012 football championships, as fans stay at home to watch matches.

Winterton added: "An inspired and driven workforce increases a business’s chance of remaining productive and improving the quality of the goods or services they provide. It also means managers can focus their time and efforts on what is really important to a business, namely ensuring the required levels of funding are in place to enable it to thrive.

"A manager’s ability to keep these business-critical issues under control means the likelihood of pay freezes, cuts in employee training and job insecurity, all of which can have a detrimental impact on staff morale, are very much reduced."