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Workforce Well-Being

Fewer Americans are starting businesses today, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than 53 million Americans aren’t working a traditional 9-to-5 job either. Instead, they’re freelancing.

Are they happier? And if so, what part of the job makes working as an independent contractor better than an hourly or salaried position?

We surveyed more than 1,000 working Americans on what makes them most happy about their employment. From the people who work for tips to the self-employed, we examined who’s the happiest and why. We even looked at how many Americans may be working second jobs. Curious about who’s happiest in the modern workforce? Continue reading to find out.

Employment Enjoyment

There are a lot of elements that go into being happily employed. From the hours we work to the money we make, feeling content with our jobs is more than just about the work we do.

On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being very happy, we found the unhappiest Americans were those who worked for a base pay plus tips (4.3) — of which around 60 percent work in the food service industry. This separate wage structure has come under fire in recent years for not affording workers a living wage, and some states (including Minnesota) have eliminated it altogether, forcing employers to pay their employees the state’s minimum wage in addition to their tips.

Among the happiest workers were freelancers (5.3) and the self-employed (5.4). Being your own boss can be liberating. Besides pushing you to your creative and entrepreneurial limits, working for yourself can also eliminate workplace politics and reduce the unnecessary drama and paper pushing that can make some people dread going to work.

Elements of Work Unhappiness

Though some employees may be more happy about their jobs than others, work is still work. Our survey found nearly all freelancers were most unhappy about their job stress, while no freelancers were unhappy with their job flexibility. Flexibility, in this case, does indeed come at a price.

Those who were hourly and self-employed also cited job stress as one of the unhappiest aspects of their work life. Almost 70 percent of base pay plus tip earners said their co-workers and pay rate made them unhappy at work, while a little more than half of salaried folks felt down about their rate of pay.

At least there’s a silver lining for each employment type or some reason not to dread work so much. More than 80 percent of base pay plus tip earners and self-employed Americans were happy about their work-life balance (the most of any group), with just under 17 percent citing it as an unhappy aspect of work. Self-employed workers also reported their work environment was the biggest perk of all. Hourly and salaried workers reported job flexibility was the happiest part of their job.

More Jobs, Greater Happiness?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 7.6 million Americans have more than one job. This number is even higher among certain generations, as one study found more than 1 in 3 millennials currently work multiple jobs. Whether it’s affording a desired lifestyle or paying off debt, millions of Americans have taken up the task of working multiple jobs.

People with more than one job tended to be happier with their job flexibility — in addition to their work environment and job responsibilities – than those working a single job. However, only about two-thirds were satisfied with their work-life balance, less than the percentage of people holding a single position. Workers with multiple jobs were also less likely to be happy with their pay rate 52 percent compared to 59 percent of people with solitary employment.

The Sacrifice of Multiple Jobs

Having a second job can certainly come at a cost. While it may afford some Americans the opportunity to earn additional income, it can also hold them back from other financial commitments.

When it came to affording a routine medical check up, 58 percent of Americans with multiple jobs felt comfortable with the cost, compared to nearly two-thirds of those with just one job. While more than a third of people with one job felt confident about growing a family or having kids, only a little more than 1 in 4 people working multiple jobs felt the same. Even fewer felt comfortable with saving for retirement or managing the cost of a potential medical emergency.

The Value of a Second Job

When it came to working secondary jobs, millennials were the only generation to work for a base pay plus tips in addition to their primary jobs. They were also more likely to have an hourly or salaried job on the side, with more than a third reporting hourly and more than 5 percent reporting salaried. Once again, baby boomers with multiple jobs were more likely than any other generation to freelance or work for themselves.

On average, most Americans earned significantly less from their second jobs. For millennials and baby boomers, earning $100 to $149 a week in additional income was the most common, although some reported making double or even more than that amount. Gen Xers were the biggest earners, with more than 21 percent reporting an additional income of $300 or more each week.

Protect Yourself and Your Business

Sometimes there are more important things about our job than the paycheck we earn. Still, for the millions of Americans with more than one job, it doesn’t always translate to more financial security.

Regardless of the industry you work in, insuranceQuotes is your free resource for insurance news, videos and price quotes. Whether you’re looking for health insurance, life insurance, or even to protect your business — we can break down your options and show you how much you could be saving on all of your insurance needs. Visit us online at to learn more.


We surveyed over 1,000 Americans in the workforce to see how happy they were with their careers. We asked participants questions about their overall happiness, financial security and the worst aspects of their job based on their employment type and number of jobs. Participants were asked questions about their work-life balance and basic demographic questions.

Fair Use Statement

Interested in sharing the pros and cons of the modern workforce? Feel free to share our findings for noncommercial purposes only, but make sure to give us proper credit.

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