Can a Traditional Nine-to-Five be Less Stressful than Freelancing?

The reason why 9-5 workers are often more unsatisfied than their freelancing counterparts

In today’s economy, conventional wisdom suggests that freelancing results in a higher quality of life than a traditional nine-to-five job. The flexibility of freelancing allows you to relax when you need a break and to work when you feel motivated, which results in more efficient use of your work hours.

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But that argument makes one big assumption: all nine-to-five jobs are equal. Are they?

Just as every freelancer’s personal situation is different, it’s important to remember that every company’s culture is different. Saying that all nine-to-five jobs are inefficient would be like saying that freelancing is a good idea for every single employee in the United States—it’s just too broad.

Unless your commute is especially long, the act of traveling to work and sitting in an office is not what makes tradition nine-to-fives ineffective.

The problem is that many companies partake in a culture in which the employee’s psychological and personal needs are not met.

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There are a plethora of ways in which this might happen; a large corporation might slow ambitious workers down with bureaucracy, or a startup might push its employees too hard with unpaid overtime. Whatever the reason may be, no one would work hard for an organization that they feel doesn’t have their interests in mind. Instead, workers end up meeting the bare requirements and going home when their hours are up. This is what leads people to argue that freelancing is superior: if the alternative is pretending to work at company that doesn’t respect you, of course it would be more efficient to be your own boss.

But what if you could find an employer that respected your desires?

When deciding whether to pursue a nine-to-five opportunity versus a freelance one, the most important consideration is company culture. Will you enjoy going to work? Do you trust the CEO and managers to help you work to your full potential?

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If the answer is no, then freelancing will be the better option. As many have argued, freelancing gives you the flexibility to relax when you have to and work when you have to. The implication is that you do better work when you want to work. Motivating yourself and managing your own schedule is much more efficient than sitting in an office for 40 hours a week when you’re truly only working for 30.

But if the answer is yes, the nine-to-five is a valid option. Freelancing is not without stress: as work mingles with life, it becomes harder to schedule your day and find time for everything, despite the supposed flexibility. Constantly having work at the back of your mind can be a bigger source of stress than having to go in to the office for a few hours every week. At a nine-to-five, it’s easier to leave work at work—and if your managers are good, you’ll come into the office on Monday morning ready to do your best.

That’s the goal: to feel confident and motivated when you work, rather than stressed and lazy. For some, working at a nine-to-five with a culture fit will be much more efficient than trying to do everything independently. If you fit in, you’ll reap the benefits of a social workplace without sacrificing your mental health and your work-life balance in the process.