Many UK freelancers feel lonely and isolated following leap to self-employment

The solo self-employed are now a vital element of the UK economy, contributing around £271 billion to the government’s coffers in 2017, of which around £125–140 billion came from freelancers. But with some predicting that by 2020, half of the workforce will be freelancing, we need to take an objective look at the world of self-employment and tackle its challenges head-on, giving freelancers the tools and skills they need to work effectively — and happily.

New Epson research, which surveyed 1000 UK freelancers, found that most (91 percent) worked from home at least some of the time. When asked why they had chosen to freelance or work remotely, respondents said that a better work/life balance (53 percent) and greater flexibility (62 percent) were among their reasons; some said they wanted to avoid working in an office, which they found stressful (47 percent).

There are, however, disadvantages to solo working. While 54 percent of respondents to the study declared freelance life ‘liberating’, a striking 48 percent admitted to finding it ‘lonely’ and 46 percent said it was ‘isolating’. The absence of an office social life is felt keenly by some; 32 percent of respondents said they missed office banter and 29 percent missed being part of a team.

Perhaps this is why the study also uncovered some worrying implications for freelancers’ mental health. A quarter (25 percent) of respondents had experienced frequent periods of depression, and around a fifth (21 percent) claimed that the loneliness of remote working had caused them to have suicidal thoughts. The impact of isolation and loneliness on mental health is widely recognised, including by the national mental health charity, Mind.

According to Mind, at least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. It says there are small, simple steps you can take to look after yourself and make your workplace mentality healthier.

Annika Fagerstrom, head of consumer products, Epson UK, says: “It’s very clear that the leap into self-employment brings many changes, most of them beneficial. However, for those lacking structure or support, solo working can be tough. Epson wants to be part of that support system and help the UK’s hard-working community of independent, flexible workers to thrive.