Becoming self-employed or starting a freelance career can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. The freedom and flexibility can help you to prevent issues becoming worse, and manage existing conditions. But it can also involve pressure and big emotional challenges which can have a negative effect on your business, relationships and lifestyle. We've put together a set of resources and guides to support positive mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our business knowledge with tips and advice from mental health and wellbeing experts.
As many as one in four people in the UK will experience a challenge to their mental health each year. And self-employment allows for potential career changes to reduce workplace pressure and stress, or to manage a more positive balance between work and self-care for mental and physical issues. Around 80% of freelancers feel that switching to self-employment had at least a somewhat positive impact on their mental health.
But our research also shows that many freelancers find self-employment more challenge than they expected. Finding work, irregular income, and the blurring of work and home life are all big challenges, especially when starting out. External factors, such as the coronavirus pandemic, can make self-employment much more stressful, and many freelancers have reported their productivity has dropped, while issues including depression, anxiety and insomnia have increased as a result.
However, there are many reasons to be positive for the future. Not only are the numbers of UK self-employed rising, but more and more new, and established, self-employed professionals and freelancers are publicly sharing their experiences of coping with mental health challenges. This helps to reduce the stigma around admitting issues, and seeking help or support. It's important that anyone encountering mental wellbeing and health problems knows that they're not alone, and non-judgemental, confidential professional care is available.
We've compiled guides, tips and further resources to support mental wellbeing for the self-employed, combing our knowledge of freelancing careers with the expertise of mental health professionals.
The coronavirus pandemic has been an enormous challenge for everyone around the world. But for freelancers and the self-employed, there have been additional problems around accessing financial and work-related support.
The combination of a health and income crisis has had a significant negative impact on the mental health of the self-employed sector, with almost one third reporting high stress levels. Our research showed almost half of the UK self-employed were feeling less confident and productive, which correlated with similar figures for feeling anxious or depressed. And that correlated with the numbers also struggling with lost sleep and reduced energy levels.
Before coronavirus, 68% of the UK self-employed reported good or excellent mental health, but this dropped to 39% by July 2020, with the biggest drops for younger and female freelancers and contractors. Our report also looked at the measures people adopted to care for their mental wellbeing, including exercising, rest, hobbies and socialising. And what more can be done to support freelancers and the self-employed, with five key recommendations for the government, industry and organisations to implement going forwards.
The benefits of rest and relaxation away from work are well-research and documented. And yet our report reveals a significant number of UK freelancers, contractors and consultants took less than five days of holiday in the previous 12 months. And some didn't take a single day away from their business.
Our report looks at the responses of more than 900 self-employed professionals to reinforce the practical benefits that time off can provide. And alongside some practical advice, we share five key recommendations for the Government and industry to better support freelancers needing a break for parental leave, illness, or to rest and recharge.
If you need support for your mental wellbeing, we've compiled further resources to help you, including organisations, apps and more. Whether you're an experienced self-employed professional, or just starting out as a freelancer, there's no reason to struggle alone with mental health problems - there are a wide range of confidential and non-judgemental options to improve your self-care, or provide professional help an assistance.
Please note that we can't take responsibility for content hosted on third party websites or apps. But we will endeavour to keep this list of mental health resources updated with the most relevant and useful links.
Mental Health Organisations:
- Mental Health Foundation
- Mind (Including a toolkit for small businesses and the self-employed to move out of the pandemic)
Mental Wellbeing Apps:
- Calm app for wellbeing and sleep
- My Possible Self app to use interactive tools and techniques using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Worry Tree app to record worries and use CBT techniques.