Original Research

Experience of meaningful work for self-employed individuals

Dirk J. Geldenhuys, Sarah Johnson
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 47 | a1817 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1817 | © 2021 Dirk J. Geldenhuys, Sarah Johnson | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 June 2020 | Published: 08 June 2021

About the author(s)

Dirk J. Geldenhuys, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Sarah Johnson, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: This article is about the experience of meaningful work for self-employed individuals.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore how meaningful work is experienced by self-employed individuals.

Motivation for the study: Research tends to focus on meaningful work from either the formally employed individual or the organisational perspective, and very little research has included the perspective of self-employed individuals. The number of employed individuals considering self-employment, however, has increased since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which triggered a global recession that has resulted in a substantial number of job losses and questionable job security in various employment sectors.

Research design/approach and method: This was an interactive qualitative study to explore the experience of meaningful work for self-employed individuals. A social constructionist paradigm was adopted to study participants’ attitudes towards their work, their values and feelings, what drives them and their perceptions of meaningful work. Data was collected and analysed from a purposive sample of five self-employed individuals.

Main findings: This study revealed that purpose is the primary driver in self-employed individuals’ experience of meaningful work. Purpose facilitates feeling stimulated and creative expression. Cooperation encourages participation in meaningful work. Fulfilment is the primary outcome of self-employed individuals’ experience of meaningful work.

Practical/managerial implications: Self-employed individuals can create opportunities for meaningful work. This study provides an understanding of the experience of self-employed individuals when they perform work they consider meaningful and the implications thereof.

Contribution/value-add: This study complemented existing literature on meaningful work and literature on self-employment, and may facilitate the experience of meaningfulness by the growing number of self-employed individuals.


Keywords

self-employed; meaningful work; interactive qualitative analysis; purpose; affinities

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