Author, Andrea Strand
With the rise of digitalization, more workers are choosing to step away from their 9 to 5 jobs and become part of the gig economy. According to Gallup’s yearly employment report, about half of the global workforce was made up of full-time freelancers as of 2019. In addition to the growth of freelance work, many entrepreneurs are branching out and building their businesses from the ground up. The shift away from traditional work-life has been taking place in most of Asia, the US, and the UK since 2014, and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Many workers are willing to make the jump to freelance work and entrepreneurship to gain more freedom. With the ability to make your own schedule and have more control over your workload and income, working for yourself seems ideal, and, in many cases, it is. However, we have to wonder how this shift in the workforce is affecting people’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Does more control over your work schedule result in better sleep, a more optimistic outlook, and overall contentment?
To answer these questions, eachnight conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans to compare the work-life balance of entrepreneurs, freelancers, and employees. Although this survey was done in the US, these trends are likely to take place in every nation experiencing a massive uptick in freelance and entrepreneurial work.
Sleep and Productivity
The survey’s most important findings were those related to sleep. About half of the people in each group (entrepreneurs, freelancers, and employees) claimed to be satisfied with their sleep quality. However, a higher percentage of entrepreneurs believed that sleep was a necessary sacrifice for success. About 58 percent of entrepreneurs were also less likely to get a full seven hours of sleep each night.
These stats are significant when we consider that adequate sleep is needed to maintain focus, motivation, and creativity—all of which are important when running a business and leading a team. The fact that many entrepreneurs are willing to give up sleep to be more successful suggests that the company’s future is riding on their shoulders. The demand to maintain every detail of their business is pushing many owners to put their sleep, and ultimately, their health, on the line in favor of productivity.
However, sacrificing sleep for work does not necessarily equate to success. In many cases, it is quite the opposite. Research suggests that just one night of reduced sleep can impair our cognitive abilities. For entrepreneurs, this means slower response times, shorter attention spans, decreased memory, and the inability to make critical decisions. By getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep each night, owners are doing themselves and their businesses a disservice.
The tendency to work more and sleep less inevitably results in less productivity. Unfortunately, it can also lead to a decrease in income. Eachnight’s survey found that workers in all three categories who claimed to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night reported a higher median yearly income than those who slept 6 hours or less. For entrepreneurs, this loss equated to an average of $7500 per year. For freelancers, it was an average of $4500 per year.
While the average income didn’t vary too much between employees who slept at least 7 hours a night and those that didn’t, this statistic does not necessarily suggest that their sleep loss didn’t reduce productivity. It could merely be an indication that their lack of productivity is impacting the income of the company they work for rather than their own.
Nevertheless, 55 percent of surveyed employees also received a raise within the last year, while only 39 percent of freelancers and 48 percent of entrepreneurs had a pay increase. Employees were also more likely to be satisfied with their current financial situation. Although freelancers and entrepreneurs have more freedom in terms of their schedule and workload, financial instability may be taking its toll on those who work for themselves.
This fact is perhaps not surprising when we consider that freelance work is often inconsistent and does not include employee benefits, such as paid time off, sick leave, retirement funds, and medical benefits. Entrepreneurs as well, are often cash-strapped as they build their business—leading to financial strain, increased stress, and sleep loss.
Eachnight found that 49 percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed looked forward to going to work every day. This is compared to only 33 percent of employees and 32 percent of freelancers who were motivated to work each day. Entrepreneurs were also most likely to feel optimistic about their future and have autonomy at work.
These findings suggest that despite the pressure involved in running a business, entrepreneurs are still more likely to feel fulfilled and content with their work than freelancers and employees. While employees have the advantage of financial stability, they will not feel the same sense of ownership that entrepreneurs do. Likewise, freelancers never work for one company very long and may feel less connected to the work they are doing. In fact, freelancers were the least likely to feel hopeful for the future or to feel like they had any agency at work.
Whether you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, or an employee working in the US or in Asia, keeping up with your job is essential, and sometimes that means long hours. However, when it comes to productivity, there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Eachnight’s survey sheds light on the fact that there is a delicate balance between our work lives and our personal lives. Working more than 40 hours a week means business begins to encroach on the time we have to decompress, visit with family, and maintain our health.
To avoid the risk of feeling unmotivated at work or the chance of making a careless mistake, all workers must prioritize sleep. Sacrificing hours of sleep to get more work done may seem like a necessity, even a badge of honor in some cases. However, when we consider the toll sleep deprivation takes on the mind and body, we can quickly see that adequate rest is a key ingredient of success. Without it, we are depriving ourselves of the essentials we need to thrive.
Author, Andrea Strand of Best Mattress Brand