As the number of people struggling with mental health issues like burnout and stress continues to rise, researchers are looking to entrepreneurs for lessons on how to avoid burnout and find happiness in their work. Entrepreneurs are often seen as workaholic heroes, putting in long hours and energy into their businesses. However, a recent study conducted by UvA professor of Entrepreneurship Martin Obschonka and his colleagues has revealed that entrepreneurs are actually at lower risk of burnout compared to salaried employees.
Obschonka and his team conducted the first major study on the link between entrepreneurship and burnout, following 348 entrepreneurs and 1,002 employees over a period of up to six months. The results were surprising. "There seems to be a paradox of 'positive workaholism', because entrepreneurs are so engaged in their work that they also show less daily work recovery after regular working hours. What makes them so protected from burnout? We therefore also looked at the main mechanisms associated with burnout and engagement with work," says Obschonka.
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The study found that the work of entrepreneurs actually results in less daily work stressors, such as work pressure, time pressure, and administrative tasks, compared to paid work. Additionally, entrepreneurship offers a high degree of personal work autonomy, which leads to a positive psychological return on the substantial investment entrepreneurs make due to their deep involvement in their work. As a result, entrepreneurs not only have more energy and a more positive state of mind than salaried employees on average, but they are also happier and more satisfied with their work. "On average, entrepreneurship seems to make people happier," adds Obschonka.
Interestingly, entrepreneurs with one-man businesses (without employees) are at even lower risk of burnout. However, the likelihood of burnout increases when entrepreneurs expand their businesses and hire employees. Obschonka emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurs being aware of this and taking steps to mitigate burnout risks for themselves and their employees as they grow their businesses.
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The findings of this study have broader implications beyond just entrepreneurship. They suggest that adopting a more entrepreneurial approach, such as intrapreneurship within large organizations, may also reduce the risk of burnout in high-stress jobs that require a strong commitment to work. "If we can maximize the psychological benefits of working as an entrepreneur, it promises not only personal benefits in6 the entrepreneurial sector but also broader social and economic benefits, with healthy, motivated, and well-rewarded entrepreneurs running their businesses," says Obschonka.
The study sheds light on how entrepreneurs manage to avoid burnout and accumulate happiness in their work, offering valuable insights for individuals seeking to find balance and satisfaction in their careers. Entrepreneurs serve as an example of how it's possible to be deeply engaged in work while also maintaining good mental health, providing inspiration for those who aspire to create their own path in the business world.