Contractors are happiest

Want to be happier at work? The answer’s simple: go work for yourself.

Using data from the national Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, researchers from the Murdoch University Business School, Bond University and Oregon State University in the US compared the level of satisfaction and wellbeing between 526 business owners and 6,840 wage and salaried employees.

The researchers examined a range of issues, including satisfaction with one’s own life and job, individual priorities, perceived prosperity, risk preferences, and individual health and well-being.

The results suggest that the level of satisfaction between the self-employed people and contractors, compared with paid employees does differ significantly, and that entrepreneurs are more satisfied than their waged counterparts. Self-employed business owners report both higher levels of overall life satisfaction and job satisfaction.

More specifically, the self-employed are significantly more satisfied in regards to their life conditions, employment opportunities, their financial situation, their personal safety, in feeling part of the community, their personal health, and the neighbourhood in which they reside – all of which are commonly accepted measures of well being.

However, wage and salary employees were more satisfied with their free time.  Employees were more satisfied with the hours they work, and their leisure activities, than the self-employed. This specific finding could suggest that employees are able to have greater control of their free time, while entrepreneurs may feel that they are always responsible to their business and their customers.

As expected, the self-employed were also more satisfied with their perceived prosperity than employees. Business owners, as a whole, felt “very comfortable” with their level of prosperity, and were more willing than employees to take risks to gain greater financial well being.

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