‘Freedom to innovate’ gives freelancers a buzz

The ‘good feeling’ that self-employed people say their experience directly because of their work appears to be intrinsic to the free-reined, solo nature of it, a new study suggests.

In fact, being given more freedom to innovate and being able to influence the working environment are why the self-employed feel more engaged, according to researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter. 

And the knock-on effect of feeling “more engaged” (the freelancers were pitted against employees in similar sectors and came out on top for engagement), is that the self-employed “feel energised.”

They also feel “pleased with their own contribution” added Prof Ilke Inceoglu of University of Exeter Business School.

Speaking after the study, which involved workers from the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand, the professor added that measuring how engaged people were in their work was a useful way to gauge their wellbeing.

The findings seem to point to deeper emotions than merely “job satisfaction,” which Prof Inceoglu believes people researching the workplace should move beyond solely looking at as the key criterion.

For those potentially future studies, ‘Work orientations; well-being and job content of self-employed’— published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, might hold some clues.

For example, it was found that those of the workers who were self-employed were not only among the most engaged, but that they also experienced “greater opportunities for innovation, achieving challenging targets and meeting high standards.”

Study co-author Prof Peter Warr, of the University of Sheffield, said that professional freelancers emerged as valuing their autonomy, even if their trade-off is having to ‘go the extra mile,’ potentially until dusk.

He said of self-employed, professional freelancers: “They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people.

“They really get to use their own expertise, so don’t seem to mind working long hours. They can find meeting high standards really fulfilling.”

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