Could self-employment be your route to less stress?

There is no doubt that stress is a big issue in the workplace now. It may be a matter of debate whether this is because the nature of work in the present day is more pressurised than it used to be, or whether people are more open about stress because awareness of mental health issues has grown.

It may be that both are true; a reduction in stigma certainly enables staff to be open about their struggles in the workplace and is more likely to prompt a positive response rather than the affected worker being regarded as weak or making excuses. However, it is arguable that a great many factors of the modern working environment conspire to put the squeeze on people. For example, email makes it possible for people to be contacted about work matters out of hours, disrupting the precarious work-life balance and giving people less time and space where they can be free from the concerns of the day.

Could self-employment provide a solution to these challenges? A survey by AXA Business Insurance suggests it can.

AXA’s annual Stress Index found that, contrary to popular belief, those who work for themselves are less stressed, enjoy a better work-life balance and enjoy better mental wellbeing than just about everyone else.

That is not to say self-employment is a blissful utopia: for some self-employed people work is a potential 24/7 enterprise as they are on call whenever their services are needed, while fluctuations in monthly incomes can inevitably be a concern.

What that suggests is the type of self-employment will matter. The kind of people who are on call at all times would, for example, include plumbers or electricians rather than, for example, shopkeepers. Fluctuations in income will inevitably be largest for those involved in seasonal work like tourism.

Overall, 78 per cent of self-employed people say they are at least a little bit stressed about work. Taken in isolation, that might seem a reason for people not to be their own bosses. However, the same research found that nine out of ten of those working for someone else are stressed.

In short, at least some stress is likely for most, but those who want to minimise it have a better chance through self-employment. Indeed, the rate of chronic stress is markedly lower for the self-employed: just two per cent suffer this badly, compared with 11 per cent who work for someone else.

Moreover, the source of stress was less likely to come directly from work for the self-employed (42 per cent) than those working for a firm (61 per cent). This is logical, for the actual workload of the self-employed is a self-imposed amount and people can control how much flexibility they have.

Moreover, for the self-employed there is three times less chance of having to deal with people it is hard to get on with. The annoying workmate is seldom part of the equation for those who run their own enterprises, while remote working is more readily available.

Therefore, the picture that emerges is that those who are self-employed are twice as likely to have a stress-free working life as those calling someone else “boss”.


Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of iStock/fizkes

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