Articles - 15th April 2019

Adopting Healthier Freelance Habits

Words by Beth Mahoney

Remote working has significantly risen in popularity in the past 10 years, which has meant that the UK is now home to more freelancers who choose to work from home than ever before. A study from Epson shows that 91% of freelancers tend to work from home at least part of the time.

Smart technology has enabled the number of remote workers in the UK to rise rapidly. Research from TUC suggests that from 2006 to 2016, the number of people in the UK who work from home increased by one fifth, with the current number of UK remote workers at around 1.5 million people. A study from Kalido has suggested that by 2020, half of the UK’s entire workforce may be self-employed and working in a remote capacity.

Like many freelancers, I choose to work from home the majority of the time. I chose to work remotely as I felt that it would make managing my time easier, it would provide a greater work-life balance, and it would come with less stress than an office environment. What I did not realise was the mental health impact working remotely can have, particularly in relation to failing to adopt ‘healthy’ freelance habits.

While, according to Epson, 54% of freelancers who work remotely feel that it’s ‘liberating’, 48% of the respondents admitted that they feel lonely and 46% said that they feel isolated. Various studies have shown that loneliness can be a key factor in the development of mental health problems, such as depression.

Research from mental health charity Mind found that ‘at least’ one in six remote workers suffered from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. While Epson’s research found that 25% of freelancers have experienced depression at some point and 21% have had suicidal thoughts linked to feelings of loneliness.

These statistics are not surprising, particularly when you consider the habits that are far too easy to get into when working in a freelance capacity from home.

There’s a common misconception that the greatest thing about working remotely is being able to work from your bed in your pyjamas, but actually this isn’t necessarily a healthy habit to get into. Many freelancers feel that working in this way can be detrimental not only to their mental health but also to their productivity.

Becky Slack, Managing Director of Slack Communications believes that getting straight out of bed and heading to a desk can be detrimental to mental health and productivity.

She said: “I used to tumble out of bed and straight to my desk, but I found that contributed to a feeling of burnout and overwhelm. Instead, I’ve started following Benjamin Hardy’s ‘How To Feel Great Before 8am’ philosophy.”

She continued: “I make sure that my morning routine includes the following: visualisation and meditation, reading, some sort of creative project – such as working on my novel – and exercise, followed by a healthy breakfast and a shower [and getting dressed]. This really sets my day off with a positive frame of mind.”

When it comes to the causes of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, there’s a link between lifestyle habits and these disorders. Studies have shown that socialising regularly, exercising on a frequent basis, and taking self-care seriously can help to aid mental health and reduce the risk of mental health problems occurring.

What this suggests is that when working from home, it’s essential that freelancers – and other remote workers – understand the importance of adopting healthier lifestyle habits. Making time to socialise, getting out and about regularly, and taking self-care seriosuly are all crucial habits to adopt.

Alyssia, an Interiors Professional who is on sabbatical currently working on two books and various freelance projects, has been self-employed since 2016 and believes that adopting healthier freelance habits is the key to success.

“After about a year of the novelty of working on my own time and not getting dressed wore off and I’ve started to feel quite lonely and find it difficult to motivate myself.”

As a result of this, Alyssia made changes to how she works.

“Now I try to work outside the home at least once a week, and the days I’m home I get dressed and have something outside the house to do, like a gym class or volunteering.”

Taking the time to prepare for the day by getting dressed and taking the steps you would take if you worked in a traditional office environment is a key aspect of adopting healthier habits as a freelancer.

It’s essential to consider how working from home can put mental health at risk, linked to feelings of isolation and disconnection from the outside world.

When working in an office environment, even when you are stuck at your desk all day, you aren’t alone. You have your co-workers to talk to, which, according to Epson’s survey, 32% of respondents said that they missed being able to do, with 29% saying that they missed being part of a team.

Hannah Rowe, a Freelance PR, who has been freelancing from home for six years found that she struggled to adjust to working alone, after coming from a large organisation of over 3000 employees.

“I was in Head Office, where there were about 50 staff. All of a sudden I was at home all day on my own, with no one to bounce ideas/worries off. At the time, I was working in my dining room which was at the back of the house, so I felt even more isolated.”

“I knew I needed to make changes so I moved to the office at the front of the house – looking out onto the road so I saw ‘life’, and made sure I went out every day, even if it was just a five-minute walk.”

Hannah also recommends joining local networking groups to meet other people in the same position.

“I joined local networking groups so I met other people in the same position – it’s amazing how many feel just the same way.”

To help prevent mental health problems, making time to leave the house at least once a day, in addition to joining a range of local networking groups is essential when working remotely.

Failing to get into good habits when you freelance from home can have an extremely wide-reaching impact that can touch every aspect of your life, from your mental health to your productivity.

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