Busier freelancers are happier

Thursday 17 December 2015

Many people choose to become a freelancer or start their own business to have more control over their schedule and enjoy a better work-life balance. A new study has now suggested that freelancers get so much gratification from their job that they are happier the busier they are.

Researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of London looked at the work schedule of 45 freelance workers over a six-month period. The study, published in the SAGE journal Human Relations, found that their wellbeing fluctuated in-line with their schedule.

Each of the participants in the study was asked to fill out the same survey once a week for the allotted research period. 

Using these results, the team were able to determine that freelance workers are calmer and more enthusiastic when their hours are higher than their normal pattern of working. In contrast, they found that a sudden increase in the difficulty of their demands could cause a person to become more anxious.

Researchers Stephen Wood, from the University of Leicester, and George Michaelides, from the University of London, said the increased demands could "adversely affect people's work-life balance", especially when their schedule interferes with fulfilling family and other non-work commitments or pursuits.

This is apparent even when freelancers feel more enthusiasm about their increased workload. The research shows that, regardless of whether wellbeing improves or diminishes as workload increases in either size or complexity, a person's work-life balance can suffer.

The findings highlight the importance of freelancers using other professionals to take some of the strain and help them achieve the right work-life balance.

"Demands generate what has long been called stress-based work-family/non-work interference but hours generate a largely unrecognised phenomenon, enthusiasm-based work-family/non-work interference," the researchers say.

There are many ways to get around this, according to the study, with working longer hours actually going some way to make those who are self-employed feel calmer. However, it found that having conflicting demands tends to make people more stressed, and hinder their ability to complete tasks smoothly.

In addition, the study found that freelancers are happiest when they feel they have control and variety in their work, which is a key reason why many people choose to make the change in the first place.

By Victoria McDonnell

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