A recent study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, revealed that self-employed people are much happier and have more job satisfaction than employees. The research carried out by business experts from the Universities of Exeter and Sheffield showed that contractors are more engaged with their projects and find work to be more rewarding than traditional employees.


The research

Data was collected from 5,000 contractors and employees across the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand from a variety of industries. Employees who took part in the research were from sectors including retail, IT, health, finance and education, with a further analysis made depending on job grades including; non-managerial workers, supervisors, middle managers, senior managers and directors. The self-employed workers involved in this study were from management consultancy, financial services, retail, education, insurance and property.


The results

The study co-authored by Professor Peter Warr from the University of Sheffield and Professor Ilke Inceoglu from the University of Exeter discovered that despite working longer hours and having less job security, self-employed workers were among the happiest because they had more freedom and control over their working life.

In contrast, employees had much lower levels of job engagement and satisfaction, with non-managerial roles ranking lowest across the board. Although, researchers did report that the higher the station of an employee, the more their happiness and commitment to the job increased.


The conclusion

What these results indicate is that the more job autonomy an individual has, the more their job satisfaction and happiness levels improve. Professor Peter Warr commented,

“Professional workers who are self-employed really value the autonomy they have. They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people […] They really get to use their own expertise, so don’t seem to mind working long hours. They can find meeting high standards really fulfilling.”

Consequently, this study shows that individual wellbeing is significantly influenced by workplace happiness. And contractors are leading by example, proving that having more control and freedom can noticeably improve productivity and engagement. Workers who feel valued and autonomous are much more likely to progress, innovate and engage at work.

Professor Ilke Inceoglu reiterated the importance of this study, explaining that:

“Being engaged in their jobs makes people feel energised and pleased with their own contribution. Measuring how engaged people are in their work is, therefore, a really useful way to gauge their wellbeing and shows we must move beyond just looking at job satisfaction.”

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