Lonely, stressed and glum: Welcome to freelance life

gdprMany Brits returning to work from the Christmas break might already be tempted to jack it all in and go freelance in an effort to improve their work-life balance and get away from the daily grind, but be warned: it is not all loafing around in your PJs and working when you feel like it.

With an estimated 5 million people (about 15% of the workforce) being self-employed, up from 3.3 million (12% of all workers) in 2001, the freelance market is booming, contributing £21bn to the nation’s GDP, according to Government figures.

Thousands of businesses in the marketing sector – including agencies, consultancies, data specialists and brands – employ freelancers across their operations, such as creatives, tech and data professionals. As well as providing greater flexibility, it also means businesses do not have to have these often highly experienced professionals on the payroll, who would otherwise cost a packet to hire.

But according to new research by office stationery giant Viking, over three-fifths (64%) of all freelancers feel lonely, while nearly as many (62%) are stressed, and over half (56%) suffer from depression.

The study, which quizzed 1,500 workers in the UK split equally between freelancers and office-based workers, also found that freelancers find it much harder to switch off. Nearly a third (30%) take their work laptop on holiday, and almost a half (48%) read and reply to work emails. In sharp contrast, only 13% of office-based workers take a laptop away with them.

Meanwhile, just one in seven (15%) freelancers said they avoid work altogether when on holiday, meaning that 85% never have a complete escape from their day-to-day routine. When it comes to office workers, 42% said they avoid work altogether. Despite this figure being lower, it still shows that 58% of the population are not taking a much-needed break to recharge their batteries.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, while freelancers agonised, office workers fared better on mental health, too; fewer than a third (30%) suffer from depression and just over half (55%) feel stressed.

Viking marketing chief Bob Huibers said: “Freelance working is often seen as the dream scenario, where you can set your own hours, choose your own clients and avoid that dreaded daily commute.

“[But] we were shocked to see that so many freelancers suffer from mental health problems linked to their work, the solitary nature of being a freelancer and feeling unable to switch off on holiday. This research shows how it’s vitally important to get the right work-life balance and look after your mental health, no matter what industry you work in.”

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