There’s a strange paradox at the heart of freelancing: most professionals contracting as Umbrella Company employees cite improved work-life balance as a key motivator for leaving permanent employment, yet they also frequently work long hours. A new survey from Randstad UK casts a little light on this enigma.

Respondents working in Yorkshire, the Humber and the South East emerged from the poll as the happiest people in Britain vis-à-vis work-life balance, even though the average working week in the South-East is one of the longest in the UK. But higher earnings don’t seem to lie behind the positive ratings: Londoners emerge in the survey as the highest earning workers in the country but they rated themselves as less content than people in the relatively low-paid North West.

Elsewhere, younger professionals embarking on their careers after the economic meltdown began in August 2007 have found themselves in exceptionally lean teams. The most talented junior members of these pared-back teams have frequently taken on work traditionally reserved for senior staff and have “upskilled rapidly” as a result. They have, effectively, become a new generation of “hyper-talented, passionate professionals.”

Mark Bull, Managing Director of Randstad UK commented:

“Accelerated learning in small teams with stretched staff can speed up development allowing passionate high flyers to shine and improve their promotion prospects. A lot of the best candidates we see – the top 15 per cent – have seen their careers progress and gather speed, having worked in smaller, thinner, tighter teams. A new cohort is emerging in Britain’s workforce which, thanks to the financial crisis, has excellent experience – albeit, perhaps, at the expense of their work-life balance.”

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