Owning a small business is undeniably  stressful. Your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees rests on your shoulders, and you don't have the vast machinery of a big organization to buffer you when things go wrong.

But, while entrepreneurship is super stressful (if also  super satisfying), according to a new survey,  working for a small business, on the other hand, is just about the happiest career choice an employee can make.

Congrats, entrepreneurs. You're a bunch of great bosses!

The numbers come from a survey done by British employee engagement startup Perkbox, but there's no reason its findings wouldn't also apply in the U.S. The poll found that the magnitude of employees' stress and the size of the company rise hand in hand.

"Microbusinesses employing a maximum of four members of staff had the lowest instances (45 percent) of workers reporting job-related stress of companies of any size. This figure increased to 57 percent for small businesses possessing between five and 50 members of staff -- and again to 62 percent for small to medium-size organizations with between 51 and 500 employees. Finally, the largest businesses -- those with more than 500 members of staff -- reported the greatest instances of staff experiencing workplace stress, with 65 percent," explains the report.

Interpreting these findings

What should we do with these findings besides use them as an excuse for entrepreneurs and small-business owners to pat themselves on the back for their relatively stress-free workforces? One useful approach might be to try and suss out why employees of small businesses are relatively happy.

While this survey wasn't designed to give a definitive answer, a ton of other research into the key ingredients for workplace happiness may shed some (admittedly speculative) light on the question. Study after study finds that workers need a sense of purpose, close relationships at work, and hope for their future prospects to be happy in their jobs. Smaller businesses, with their human scale, close proximity to customers, and generally transparent paths for advancement (compared with politics-ridden behemoths, at least) may provide more of all three, easing employee stress.

Which brings us to the other important point suggested by these findings. Not only are you nice bosses, entrepreneurs, you're also smarter bosses. Research also shows that less stress equals more performance (up to a point -- you don't want your people to be half asleep from boredom, of course). Or as Perkbox co-founder Chieu Cao puts it, "It's more than clear that a happy workforce is a productive workforce." 

So, entrepreneurs, by making your workplaces less stressful, you're also making them more efficient. Well done, you.

Do you think a similar survey in the U.S. would find similar results? 

Published on: Sep 17, 2018