Protecting your job satisfaction level while running a small business

Conceptual 3D illustration of a gauge with needle pointing to the maximum satisfaction icon horizontal image. Customer satisfaction concept.

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How much job satisfaction do small-business owners really have, and could this be improved? Although small enterprises account for the largest chunk of businesses in Australia at over 90 per cent, it’s well publicised that many don’t make it past the first five years of existence, which can lead to job stress and burnout.

One of the reasons for this is that small-business owners and managers are proven to be among the hardest working people in Australia, often pulling six or seven day weeks and working longer hours than their large business working counterparts. Many people both running and working in small enterprises seem to be burning the candle at both ends, often to their own detriment.

The good news is that overall, Australians are “satisfied” workers. An encouraging 81 per cent of respondents to Upskilled’s recent Careers Survey reported that they like their job, and 29 per cent went further, saying that they genuinely love their job.

Self-employed Australians are the happiest group of all, with 92 per cent enjoying their work. The number one reason cited for workplace happiness and satisfaction was having a likeable workplace (66 per cent of happy workers). But experts still believe there’s room for improvement.

What is a “job satisfaction” quota?

“A quota, by definition, is a limited or fixed number of things, in this case of happiness,” says US-based small-business careers expert Monica Miranda. She suggests that small-business workers might focus on programming their minds to see job satisfaction as a reachable goal, “that can be attained independently, on a daily basis, starting with small doses.”

This helps business owners who are under the pressures of “doing it all” (with often limited resources) work through the challenging times and to focus on the bigger picture.

Why is job satisfaction important to business?

Dun and Bradstreet’s latest analysis of new and failed businesses at the end of 2016 presented some statistics that many small-business owners might find concerning. According to the report, “Failures across Australia soared in the final three months to September.”

It’s when things start to go wrong that many small-business owners start to feel overwhelmed and might have significant dips in their job satisfaction levels. This can then transfer this stress onto workers in the business, and in worst case scenarios, this negativity is picked up by clients and customers. Put simply, making sure everyone within a small business is happy is not just something that’s agreeable to do, it actually makes good business sense.

How can you tell whether you’re happy or not?

Comcare has provided a guide to identifying signs of work-related mental stress; these include many elements that small-business owners can probably identify with, including role overload, emotional demand, group relationship conflict and issues with managing feelings of control.

Praise and recognition for both yourself and your small team is one antidote, as well as actively participating in procedural justice avenues such as change consultation. Remember that a person conducting a small business or undertaking has the primary duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act must ensure the health and safety of workers; this includes mental stress.

A final word on the happiness and satisfaction of your employees

If you own or run a small business, working on job satisfaction and happiness is an important thing to do to ensure longevity in the marketplace. Do a quarterly audit on your staff and work practices and log what can be improved.

Don’t be afraid to call in an expert when necessary. There are many resources available, including some that can be accessed for free, or at a nominal cost. Australia.gov.au is a great place to start as this website can point you to a range of resources based on your business location and needs. Taking responsible care of your own (and your staff’s) level of job satisfaction will be one major element in the key to your ongoing success; so take this seriously.

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