Long weekends and big bonuses might sound nice, but they are not the keys to workplace happiness. A recent poll of workers in different professions from January through August of 2009 shows that business owners scored highest on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
"Those people that are more involved with their work and have more autonomy to do their work tend to be happier than those that don't," says Charles Kerns, a professor of applied behavioral science at the Graziadio School of Business and Management.
Despite other data collected by Gallup, which reveals that business owners clock more hours than those in other occupations, and that they make slightly less on average than groups such as professionals and managers/executives, these entrepreneurs outstrip other professions with a score of 72.5 on the overall well-being index.
Jared Gutstadt is a recent addition to the happier world of the self-employed. The CEO of the New York-based music licensing company Jingle Punks, "spent eight years as a freelancer and I was very unhappy because I didn't manage my own hours."
As a video editor and composer at Viacom, Gutstadt found himself in a rut, unable to escape people's perception that he was a video guy who also happened to be music savvy. When he made the jump to pursue his passion and started his own company, he noticed a huge change in his quality of life.
"I'm actually happy to get out of bed first thing in the morning," he says, "I was very fortunate to be a successful editor in the years that I was doing it but I would not look forward to my work week." And his personal fulfillment is accompanied by business success; the company now counts MTV, NBC, CBS, and Starz among its clients.
But a boss-free existence is not without its problems. Kerns cites the spillover effect as a potential source of unrest. "If things aren't going well in your personal life, it's difficult to separate that from your work and vice versa," he says.
Gutstadt confesses that he has difficulty finding the balance between those two halves of his life. I'm "trying to figure out now where the off switch is," he says, we have a lot of West coast clients and "having your phone ringing all the time till two in the morning, it's a blessing and a curse."