Self-employment is more satisfying despite the longer hours, say Australian business owners

Australian business owners and the self-employed are more satisfied with their careers than employees despite working longer hours, according to new Vistaprint research. Around a third of the country’s small business owners gave themselves at least a 9 out of 10 for career satisfaction, compared to just 15% of full time employees, even though they are working on average five hours a week more.

Vistaprint surveyed 500 Australian business owners and 500 employees to explore their happiness, career satisfaction, and the factors that influence this.

“Becoming your own boss can feel like a leap into the dark, so it’s very encouraging to see that so many Australian business owners have enjoyed their journey,” says Head of Vistaprint Australia, Melissa Haywood. “When your company’s success lies in your hands, it can be easy to take on too much, and the extra weight of responsibility is one of the challenges we see small business owners grappling with. But this shouldn’t put people off running their own business, as the reward of having full control over your destiny is a happier working life.”

Happiness enablers and barriers

Happiness for Australian business owners is fueled by a sense of ownership. Making their own decisions and a flexible work schedule were the top reasons owners provided for their career satisfaction, followed by good work-life balance. Being in charge of their destiny and not having a boss also featured in the top five. Employees are more concerned about workplace culture and conditions, citing nice colleagues as the top factor, followed by good work-life balance and job stability.

Lack of a stable salary and paid holiday are the biggest gripes for the self-employed, followed by no paid sick leave. Workplace politics is most likely to get employees down, with bad managers and poor salary and benefits the second and third choices.

Longer hours but less stress?

Although Australian business owners enjoy the autonomy that running a business offers, it can come at a cost to their personal time, with the self-employed putting in an average of 46 hours per week compared to 41 for full-time employees. Nearly one-third (29%) of business owners also work over 50 hours per week, compared to only five per cent of employees.

Despite this, less than half (48%) of business owners report feeling stressed, compared to 58 per cent of employees.

Pursuing happiness

While most Australian business owners are already satisfied with their careers, having more free time would make them even happier. Taking more holidays and spending more time with family and friends were their top two choices when asked what would boost their happiness, followed by trusting themselves, making time for exercise and organising their time.

For employees, getting a pay rise is the number one factor that would increase their happiness. Flexible working hours, learning something new, getting a promotion and finding meaning in their work also featured in the top five.

A business owner’s happiness is also linked to their company’s success. Two-thirds (62%) of owners who rate their happiness as six or above report growth while 68 per cent of those who are unhappy (score of five or below) say their business is struggling.

About the study

The study is based on a survey of 1000 working Australians (500 business owners and 500 employees). The survey was carried out by OnePoll, ESOMAR member, on behalf of Vistaprint.

You can see an infographic that accompanies the research here.