More and more of us are choosing to abandon ‘traditional’ employment. Tamsin Isaacs, head of trends at AndCo looks at how those working remotely can avoid feeling lonely.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of self-employed workers in the UK increased from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017.
Freelancers are estimated to constitute approximately 42% of this group, or 6% of the UK’s workforce in total. The appeal of flexible working is clear: for individuals who were tired of long and expensive commutes, a lack of flexibility, and stressful workplace environments, freelancing provided a welcome alternative.
However, for many, the move has presented a previously unforeseen challenge: loneliness. A recent survey of freelancers revealed that 48% admitted to finding it lonely. The work undertaken by freelancers often requires contact with clients, but a large proportion of the actual work is often done in solitude.
Freelance careers can be incredibly rewarding, but this shouldn’t have to come at the expense of your mental health. So, here are some ideas to help you tackle or avoid feelings of loneliness as a freelancer.
Connecting with other freelancers
There are millions of other freelancers in the UK, a lot of whom may find themselves in a similar situation to you. Networking events provide a great opportunity to meet other freelancers and make new connections. If you find an interesting event to attend, be prepared to make an effort to approach as many people as possible (after all, that’s what these events are all about). If there aren’t any networking events in your area and you’re not keen on travelling to one, why not consider setting up your own? The development of Apps like Meetup make it really easy to do this. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be particularly formal, why not consider putting out an open call to other local freelancers, inviting people down to your local coffee shop or pub to meet and chat. Don’t forget to make use of the internet, for example, at AndCo, we’ve built a new online community to connect freelancers and remote workers from around the world. It’s free for anyone to use.
Connecting with fellow freelancers could also prove to be a savvy move for future work projects.
Sorting out your home-workspace
While freelancing, there’s a significant chance that you’ll have to work from home. Although this means that you can enjoy a lie in, and you no longer have to deal with the distraction of a noisy office, it can also leave you feeling as if you’re never really ‘switched off’.
Improving your immediate work environment can help. If possible, try to only work within a defined area of your house. If you don’t have space for a home office, maybe there’s a little corner somewhere that you can fit a small desk and set up as a nice, dedicated work area. By keeping clear boundaries between work and leisure space, it’ll be easier to relax once it’s (finally) time to close your laptop. Try to keep your work area neat, by doing a ‘deep clean’ each morning (or evening, ready for the next day) and ideally set it up somewhere that lets natural light in.
Find a local co-working space
Consider working elsewhere from time to time. You could consider working from a client’s offices a few days a week – this comes with the benefit of being able to approach them directly or have an impromptu brainstorm. You could join a co-working space (again, check out the Meetup App where sometimes you can find free co-working days). Co-working spaces and solutions are popping up in cities all across the UK, offering freelancers the opportunity to feel part of a community.
Scheduling your day properly
Some of the most commonly cited benefits to freelancing are an improved work-life balance, but it’s easy for this to get reversed and to find yourself not leaving your laptop all day. I’ve definitely been a culprit for not taking a proper lunch break, but it’s really important to schedule this into your working day. Not least to give yourself a break from staring at a screen. Why not take the opportunity to meet up with someone during a lunch hour? This could be a friend or former colleague, someone you’ve been meaning to meet for a coffee with for ages. An hour of human interaction can make all the difference. For days when you don’t have a lunch date, go for a walk, do a lunchtime gym session, pop to the shops, or eat lunch in a local coffee shop.
If you can, start work at the same time each morning, and try not to work too late into the night. It's all too easy not to switch off if you’re working from home.
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