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64% of freelancers don't know where to turn - Leapers publishes new data on mental health and self-employment

New research from Leapers shows the challenges which the self-employed and freelancers face.

Author: / Published: January 25th 2021

New data from Leapers - a community supporting the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed - shows that over 68% of freelancers don't feel they have adequate support for the mental health at work, and 64% wouldn't know where to access support.

Results from the annual study highlight a number of key gaps in the relationship between mental health and self-employment which many are often unaware of - and despite 64% of the freelancers questioned stated that stress, anxiety or poor mental health had at some point had a negative impact on their ability to work, only 29% said that looking after their own mental health is absolutely part of their plan to build a successful business.

The mental health of workers in the UK has increasingly become an important focus in recent years, with numerous studies showing how important it is, but where those who are employed have employers to support their wellbeing, the self-employed are required to ensure that mental health is a consideration of their business - yet this research shows it isn't only the actions of the individual which have an effect. Working relationships with clients influence wellbeing, and common challenges such as late payments often cause significant distress, say 62.79% of the group.

A year of COVID restrictions has only made matters worse - 72.30% have said COVID and the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, and there's little support from government either: 67.44% said they did not feel supported during COVID by government during the pandemic (this increases to 80.5% if you only consider limited company owners), and 85% say they don't feel supported as a small business by government generally.

Despite some of the worrying numbers - there's still optimism. Increasing numbers of people are turning to self-employment to improve their mental health, 43% of new freelancers are motivated by this compared to only 18% previously, and more control and flexibility are also key drivers in choosing this way of working. Additionally, despite a very challenging 2020, the majority of freelancers are feeling positive about 2021 professionally.

Matthew Knight, founder of the Leapers project, explains: "Working for yourself doesn't have to mean working by yourself. The reason we exist is to provide a space and resources where freelancers can feel connected to others who are going through a similar experience, and not to suggest that freelancing is bad for you, but rather highlight the key foundations of what working well requires, to proactively encourage freelancers to invest in their own wellbeing, so their mental health hopefully doesn't fall in to a poor state".

One of the most significant concerns, Knight says, is the lack of access to good resources, and whilst employers and clients should play a role to ensure their extended teams are looked after, at the very least signposting to where support is available is essential. "We call upon any business which works with freelancers to make sure they're signposting and pointing their freelancers towards where they can get support if required. We've curate and create resources for the self-employed, so there's zero effort required on behalf of the employer, other than welcoming new freelancers, and including a link." Leapers platform WorkWellWith.us is designed to provide easy access to regularly updated content and materials on mental health for the self-employed, at zero cost to the freelancer.

Further Resources

For individuals. Leapers exists to support the mental health of the self-employed. Visit Leapers’ website to join their peer-support community or access our free resources and guides on working well when working for yourself. 

For organisations. Leapers is here to support you supporting others. WorkWellWith.us is a portal which employers can offer their freelancers to signpost to support, or join our new community for employers who to take steps towards becoming Freelance Friendly

There are also fantastic resources available for all businesses, no matter their size, from Mental Health at Work which brings together a number of leading charities, specialists and industries to centralise techniques and toolkits to help your business be more supportive.

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