We asked over 500 independent workers about their work and its impact on their mental health.
This is what you told us.
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A brief overview of the make-up of our group.
When and where are you working?
Whilst each and every individual will have a unique experience as a freelancer - it is clear there are some very common stressors within the people we surveyed, and we believe these are representative across a much larger population of the self-employed.
It's important to recognise that much of the narrative around freelancing and mental health centres on the idea of the workstyle being 'isolating' - but as our research shows, the majority of people don't feel that working alone is one of the biggest challenges - but irregular work patterns, high work loads, cashflow, and lack of connection are much higher concerns.
the stressors also fit in to three distinct groups: individual behaviours, individual feelings, and external behaviours.
individual behaviours are those things which we as freelancers have control over, such as our working schedule. being stressed by having too much work to do is not unique to freelancers, but we are more in control of the amount of work we choose to accept.
individual feelings are those things which we experience but don't always match up to behaviours - such as a feeling of lack of talent, feeling that you don't have any one to talk to, not being clear on what needs to be done. again, these are not unique to freelancers, but often we can be in a position where it might be harder to discuss these professional concerns, when you don't have anyone responsible for your pastoral care than yourself
external behaviours are those things which are outside of our control - such as payment delays, clients not communicating, periods of time without work. many of these are more common in the freelance experience than under employment, and many are both significant stressors and issues that need to be addressed by others.
commonly, we find that freelancers are dealing with a list of these stressors at once - potentially any single stressor in isolation may not feel like a big issue, but when they occur frequently, systemically and in combination with other stressors, if the individual is not mindful of the list of items creating these stresses, that is when mental health is at risk.
we are aware that this could paint a very negative picture of freelancing - that is not our intention. Indeed for at least 50% of our group, freelancing has had a marked improvement on their emotional wellbeing, they are more able to control and manage their workload, and work is more meaningful. But if things do go bad, the self-employed are at more risk of dealing with stress, as the support network of an employer is not there - there is little pastoral care, there is not someone you can share your stresses with, and most importantly, it can sneak up without noticing.
Yes, some of these numbers are worrying - but if nothing else, we hope that it shines a light on the additional consideration freelancers need to give to their own mental health, and that anyone who is changing the way they work adds their own mental health to their todo list as a priority, rather than as an after-thought, or worse, when in crisis.
The purpose of our research was to use it in three ways:
1. To highlight the areas of concern for freelancers, so that others may be more aware of stressors they should keep an eye on.
2. To identify the biggest challenges our community face, in order to better support them through our own interventions and resources
3. To work with organisations who hire freelancers to improve the behaviours which create unnecessary stress.
If you are an individual who would like to be part of a community of support - where you can meet others who are tackling similar challenges - please join us.
If you want to support our efforts in producing resources, tools and guides to create tangible things to support the collective community - please partner with us.
if you want to better support your freelancers as an organisation that recognises the importance of mental health for everyone you work with, regardless of employment contract - please work with us.
Survey Sample Size: n553. Please do not re-publish this data or commentary without quoting the original source as "Leapers: Research Study 2019 https://leapers.co/huru". For any additional requests or further data, please contact [email protected].
Copyright 2019 Foxlark Strategy Limited.