Earlier this year, Reuters reported that corporate profits were at record highs because labor costs growing so slowly. “Corporate profits are their highest ever and wage growth is near its lowest in half a century,” Jamie McGeever wrote in a blog post in January. At that point, wages were growing by only 2% a year.
Now that employment has picked up, wages have increased a bit–but not as much as you would think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that workers’ productivity is also higher than last year. The BLS said wages had increased 2.3% in the second quarter.
Given these brutal facts, it’s easy to see why so many corporate workers are unhappy, stressed and afraid to take a vacation. They know the truth: If they don’t keep running on the treadmill so the corporation can hold onto these giant profits, they are at risk of joining the unemployed–and potentially never being able to replace their job at all.
It’s a very fear-based way to live, focused on scarcity. Employees’ underlying anxiety that they will slip out of the middle class gives big employers inordinate control over many people’s daily lives. It allows these companies to underpay loyal team members who are now on call almost 24/7, thanks to the digital era. And at a time when the cost of daily necessities is rising, many people are pinched as a result.
The cost to employees goes beyond the economic. When workers feel forced to say yes to the ever-increasing demands of employers, they must say no to the many other meaningful things they might be doing with their time. They have little chance to recharge themselves or spend time with the people who matter to them. It’s hard to contribute to their communities or devote themselves to other activities that might replenish them or deepen their lives. That can lead to depression, anxiety and constant regret.
But living in fear doesn’t have to be a way of life if you realize you can provide for yourself without a big employer. Many people are pleasantly surprised to discover that running their own business lets them earn a great living without having to run on a hamster wheel or to say no to who they are and what matters to them.
According to Gallup’s research, only five out of 1,000 people have the capability of being a future Richard Branson or Sara Blakely–meaning they have the combination of innate talents and skills to create a business worth $10 million or more.
But many more people do have the ability to create a small business that provides for them and their families–often while working from home. Consider these U.S. Census Bureau statistics on nonemployer businesses, which I reported on for Forbes:
* 1.7 million one-person nonemployer businesses achieved six figure revenues in 2012 (the most recent year available)
* 513,137 brought in $250,000 to $499,000
* 221,815 generated $500,000 to $999,999
* 29,494 companies generated $1 million to $2.49 million
* 1,900 grossed $2.5 million to $4.99 million
* 386 firms generated $5 million in revenue or more.
Nonemployer businesses are those staffed only by the owners. Many of these are one-man or one-woman shops or run by a couple of partners.
Next time you’re dreading your commute to a 10-hour day at work, it’s worth considering these statistics. What would happen if you reclaimed those 10 hours and instead devoted them to building a business for yourself? Could you take back even two or three hours this week to build a more joyful life for yourself so you can walk away from your job someday in the near future?
If you feel like your job is slowly killing you, it’s worth considering getting off the train you’re taking and catching another one–to a happier, more meaningful life where you’re in charge. You don’t have to hand the keys to your life to a soulless corporation where no one cares if employees are being worked to death. You can choose life: Your own.