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THE INC. LIFE

Self-Employed People Are Much Happier Than Everyone Else–Here’s Why

No, work shouldn’t make you miserable.

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BY Betsy Mikel - 27 Apr 2018

Self-Employed People Are Much Happier Than Everyone Else--Here's Why

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Thinking about quitting your job to become your own boss?

There are countless reasons why you shouldn't -- and just as many reasons why you should. Here's one to add to your pro list: Self-employed people are happier.

Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter made this conclusion after reviewing data from 5,000 workers in the U.K., United States, Australia and New Zealand. The workers spanned many sectors and managerial levels. Across the board, those who were self-employed were happier at work -- even despite longer hours and the inherent uncertainty that comes from working for yourself. Self-employment provided freedom and control, which significantly boosted their happiness and work satisfaction.

The researchers published their results in the journal Work, Employment and Society. Here's why they say self-employed workers are happier.

Control of your environment

Want to make someone hate coming to work? Force them to sit someplace where it's impossible for them to get anything done and hinders their productivity. I'm looking at you open floor plans. The modern office is rarely designed to meet the needs of introverts and extroverts alike.

It's no surprise that remote workers outperform office workers. They don't have to deal with the din of their coworkers' chit chat. Similarly, self-employed workers have more autonomy over their work environment. They can work from their quiet home office, a humming coffee shop or from a coworking space. Maybe every day is a little different. Regardless, they get to decide. And being able to create the right workspace for your own productivity is key to happiness.

Being engaged in your work

A very small percentage of employees are engaged in their work. By some estimates, the number of disengaged workers in the U.S. is as high as 68 percent.

In the study, workers in organizations with non-managerial roles had the lowest levels of job satisfaction and engagement. Workers at higher levels were more engaged. The self-employed workers were the most engaged of all.

"Measuring how engaged people are in their work is therefore a really useful way to gauge their well-being," explained study co-author Ilke Inceoglu in a press release. She's a professor of organizational behaviour and HR management at University of Exeter Business School.

Being engaged also led to longer hours. But the researchers said the workers didn't seem to mind. "They can find meeting high standards really fulfilling," study co-author and psychologist Peter Warr said.

Freedom to innovate

Lastly, self-employed workers have more opportunities to innovate, leading to greater workplace happiness.

When employed by someone else, you might feel restricted by the limits of your job. Your work may be repetitive or redundant. You might interact with the same small circle of people every day, limiting your exposure to new ideas or ways of thinking.

This is less frequently the case for people who act as their own boss.

"They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people," Warr went on to explain.

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