We all complain about work now and then, but while being your own boss can be liberating, it also brings its own set of headaches. Keeping stress at bay is really important, so here’s what causes it and what you can do.
The rise of the self-employed
You’ve probably nodded along as a friend or colleague tells you about their workplace woes, the stresses and strains of being an overworked, underappreciated employee, or the annoying, noisy colleagues they have to put up with. But what about the self-employed? What are the biggest worries for this sector of the workforce?
Self-employed people are a rapidly growing part of the UK population – 4.8 million in 2017, making up 15% of the population, according to the Office for National Statistics. This group encompasses entrepreneurs, contractors, freelancers and gig economy workers and includes all ages, with the most rapid growth being in the 16-24 and over 65 age groups.
Being self-employed has been made even more possible by the rise of technology. Advances like WiFi, cloud sharing services and video calls are just some of the ways people have been empowered to work from anywhere, at any time.
A lack of structure
But this ability to work at any time can also have negative repercussions and it’s a significant area of stress reported by self-employed people. It seems to stem from two of their main concerns – financial insecurity and a lack of structure to the day.
Many young freelancers working from home find they’re starting the day early in the morning and continuing until late into the evening, still responding to emails at all hours. Worries about finance and employment can see mealtimes disregarded, particularly the traditional lunch hour, which can seem like a waste of time. This lack of structure to the day often leads to workplace stress.
Battling loneliness and isolation
Loneliness and isolation are other typical symptoms of self-employed workplace stress.
According to research conducted by Crunch around a third of self-employed people said they hadn’t made any new friends since they started working for themselves. A huge 79% missed ‘water cooler moments’ with colleagues and 32% missed having people to talk to when struggling to stay motivated. A separate study by Epson conducted last year saw 48% of people admitting to feeling lonely since becoming their own boss.
There are other reasons why the initial enthusiasm of becoming freelance often wears off. For example, a newly freelance parent trying to work from home while the children are at school can quickly become the ‘default’ parent, available to pick up the dry cleaning and listen out for delivery.
When trying to work from the house, thoughts can drift to domestic chores that need to be done. Personal life and work life can become muddled, to the benefit of neither, and there’s a tendency to ‘do some hoovering’ or ‘put a wash on’.
Many self-employed people find the lack of a boundary between home and work can lead to having no downtime and eventually, burnout. It’s essential to establish boundaries between the workplace and home environments, not just from the various demands of a family and domestic life in general, but also a physical boundary. It can be the solution to documents that go missing from the dining room table that was used as a desk earlier in the day.
Other things that self-employed people might think they’ll enjoy about working from home can actually have a negative effect. Working in your pajamas all day may sound great, but can actually kill motivation. The buzz and hum of office life that might have been taken for granted is replaced by deafening silence – who thought noisy colleagues would be missed? The journey to work, often a chore, can provide a useful transition between leaving home and arriving at work. It’s a connection to the outside world and the benefits are both mental and physical – fresh air and exercise in the morning can be beneficial in helping people to settle down when they get to work.
A study by Staples found that 81% of people surveyed said the workplace affects mental health. Employers are beginning to introduce ways of working to suit their employees’ wishes for more flexibility and work-life balance, but self-employed people need to find these solutions for themselves.
Converting a garage or shed into an office or adapting a spare room to use as a study is one solution for freelancers lucky enough to have those facilities. But increasing numbers of freelancers are finding a coworking space to help with problems of isolation and loneliness, as well as a lack of structure and problems with establishing proper boundaries.
Getting positive interactions back
The interaction with colleagues that has been missing can be replaced with conversations over coffee with people from differing backgrounds and industries. There are opportunities for networking with people from similar professions, ideas can be exchanged and experiences shared, with the result that workers can feel like part of a community again.
A space outside the home can also help with structure, as the freelancer can come and go as early or as late as they want, in offices that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter how long a worker spends in the new office, it’s somewhere different, helping them to achieve separation between work and home. Putting on a work ‘uniform’, leaving the house and sitting at a desk in a clean and tidy dedicated workspace, without the proximity to domestic baggage, can help to increase productivity while retaining flexibility.
Coworking can bridge the gap
Thriving or struggling as a self-employed person depends largely on personality type and circumstances. For some, working from home and being alone for long stretches of time isn’t a challenge, particularly if there’s a room in the home that can be closed off and assigned as a place of work. A bustling family or hectic home life can even make going to work for a few hours a sort of relief, but for others, coping with an irregular workflow, an unpredictable income and missing the social aspect of working with colleagues will be enough to drive them back to a more conventional workplace.
Coworking spaces can help to bridge this gap between the traditional workplace and the gig economy, making going it alone more palatable, and less lonely, for people who could succeed on their own terms, in a more familiar environment.
For freelancers who need a coworking office space, Easy Offices provides a range of attractive and affordable options, making the process simple and stress-free. Easy Offices and our family of freelancers looks forward to welcoming you.