FLARE: Workplace Happiness and Satisfaction as a self-employed person
Workplace happiness is a hot topic for every organisation. Happier staff lead to higher retention rates, which means less time and money is spent training and recruiting replacements. Which ultimately means running a more profitable business.
While large businesses invest heavily in staff retention and attraction to drive employee satisfaction, we wonder how self-employed people and contractors can apply the same philosophy and tools to their businesses and working lives. With no HR department and limited budgets, these individuals are largely responsible for their own happiness at work.
Fortunately, it is possible to apply the principles of employee happiness that large organisations deploy to your own working life, even as a solo entrepreneur.
How does employee happiness apply to self-employment?
Work happiness is a straightforward concept. It refers to enjoyment and a positive attitude towards one's work. Happy people are excited to go to work, enjoy their work, and are more satisfied and engaged. Workplace happiness naturally impacts productivity and customer satisfaction in a positive way.
Many self-employed people may feel that happiness is a luxury that doesn’t apply to them. Self-employed business owners are far less likely to take mental health or sick days because it impacts their income. They are also more concerned with retaining their customers than their own fulfilment, which can lead to longer hours and burnout.
By refocusing on happiness at work, these self-employed individuals can boost their productivity, motivation and client service.
The FLARE Framework for Workplace Happiness and Employee Satisfaction
Very few of the factors that make employees happy at work are money. Most relate to the human aspects of work. Strong relationships, a good work-life balance, and feeling valued will always mean more to employees than incentives.
I've determined five factors that impact employee happiness, summarised by a simple acronym: FLARE. FLARE is shorthand for:
- F - Flexibility and work-life balance
- L - Learning and Development
- A- Autonomy and Responsibility
- R- Recognition and Reward
- E - Environment and Culture
By ensuring that these five elements are implemented, self-employed business owners and contractors can improve their working lives considerably.
1. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Self-employment is often sold to us as a means of choosing your own schedule and income, but it’s usually not the case, especially in the early stages of setting up your business. Entrepreneurs often work longer hours and weekends with limited vacation time, which could lead to burnout.
Instead of falling into this stressful pattern, entrepreneurs should take time to separate work from their home life. Solopreneurs should schedule time for social interaction as they often lose the water cooler interactions they enjoyed before. Prioritise and focus on the important tasks in your home and working life and ensure they are taken care of before anything else.
2. Learning and Development
Learning and development focus on helping employees acquire skills to improve their on-job performance and helping employees grow professionally through continuous learning. The opportunity for professional growth is often among the top criteria for employees to join an organisation. In contrast, the lack of growth opportunities is a key reason employees leave.
While large organisations have entire learning and development departments, small business owners are responsible for their own growth. They may even feel their skill sets stagnate as they lack time to pursue further education or learning.
It’s important to note that learning doesn’t have to be academic or formal. Taking time to complete an online short course, watching a lecture series on YouTube, or attending community lectures and networking events can go a long way towards fulfilling the need for learning and development. If possible, schedule time with a business coach regularly to draw new insights, and keep an eye out for free webinars related to your industry
3. Autonomy and Responsibility
All employees need to feel that they have choices and that what they do is of their own volition. The sense of responsibility and ownership is far greater, and they have a heightened sense of control over the situation, contributing to their performance.
Entrepreneurs may sometimes feel too much responsibility as they are solely responsible for steering the business and earning a profit. If you feel overburdened by responsibility as a contractor or entrepreneur, your autonomy has been stripped away. It’s time to pass some of the responsibility to others. Hiring a virtual or part-time assistant, or leaning on existing employees, is a good way of restoring the autonomy-responsibility balance.
Setting your schedule and firm boundaries with clients (and yourself) is also important. You are responsible for the business's health, which means taking responsibility for your own health and well-being.
4. Recognition and Reward
Recognition and rewards acknowledge employees for their performance in intrinsic or extrinsic ways in a fair and timely manner. This includes appropriate financial compensation, team celebrations, recognition of years served and even milestones that have been reached.
Implementing a rewards program in a large organisation is relatively easy but far more challenging in small, owner-operated businesses. Approach recognition and reward like you would in a large organisation. Set a business objective with an incentive, e.g. taking a weekend break when you’ve landed a large contract or upgrading your company car once you’ve hit a specific milestone.
Rewards aren’t always monetary, either. Make sure you share business and personal achievements on social media and with supportive friends to receive the recognition you deserve.
5. Environment and Culture
Every company has its own unique culture or collective personality that's usually apparent, both internally and externally, in the atmosphere, environment and output of the business culture defines how employees conduct themselves, shapes interactions with one another, and influences the output and presentation of the work completed.
Very few small companies and solo ventures think about their culture, but it can considerably impact their way of working. Whether you want to be ruthless and performance-driven like Amazon or transparent and people-focused like Hubspot, define your values. Decide what you stand for, set goals and list priorities for conducting your business externally and internally.
Happiness at work is as important to a solopreneur as it is to a large multinational employee. Make sure you prioritise your happiness at work by implementing a framework that focuses on flexibility and development, creates a healthy balance of autonomy and responsibility, recognises and rewards achievement and has a set of guiding principles in place that informs and shapes its culture.