Self-Employed People Are Happier Even If They Work More Hours And Have No Job Security

Despite the challenges, the degree of engagement of self-employed individuals was only matched by the most senior of organization managers. Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

In not-so-shocking news, life is better when you’re your own boss – or if you’re the boss of other people.

A study by psychologists at the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter indicates that self-employed people are more engaged and enjoy the challenges of their jobs to a larger extent than non-managers employed at organizations.  


Using a voluntary online questionnaire posted on a personnel consultancy website, Professors Peter Warr and Ilke Inceoglu surveyed 4,855 employed adults in the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand on what aspects of their jobs they valued or disliked.

Participants were mainly in the sectors of retail, healthcare, finance, computer services, and education; 7 percent worked for government agencies.

After analyzing patterns in the responses, the study, published in Work, Employment and Society, also found that self-employed individuals have much greater job satisfaction than organization employees who were non-managers, though the degree of satisfaction in the organization workers went up with each job grade.

Managers of all levels and self-employed participants were tied in terms of satisfaction, but interestingly, the degree of engagement (queried through questions about energy, such as ‘My job makes me feel energized’; and absorption, such as ‘I get carried away by what I’m working on’) of self-employed individuals was only matched by the most senior of organization managers.  


“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,” said Warr in a statement.

Of course, people who run their own businesses often lack access to social networks and helpful resources that those working at organizations have. Both self-employed and normally employed respondents agreed on the level of importance of the survey’s list of supportive factors (a supportive environment, desirable career/job security, and social relations) that can ease the burden of an arduous job.

And yet, despite missing out on these elements, self-employed workers were more likely than non-managerial normal employees to actually value the survey’s three challenging job factors – self-reliance, competitive environment, and demanding tasks.

Warr believes that the cause of this professional masochism stems from feeling motivated and invigorated by the challenges of self-chosen work, rather than drained and disillusioned.


“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.”

The study concludes that engagement is perhaps a bigger contributor to overall career well-being than the overused metric of “job satisfaction” and the authors suggest that future work psychology research should shift its focus.


  • tag
  • psychology,

  • employee,

  • work,

  • job,

  • career,

  • employment,

  • satisfaction,

  • manager,

  • engagement,

  • self-employed