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Voice of the Employee

Two in three (64%) of freelancers say they regularly feel lonely due to their work, with a further 59% saying they suffer from work-related anxiety, according the new research from office stationery and furniture suppliers, Viking.

The study, which surveyed 1,500 freelancers and office-based workers, sought to discover the effect of working freelance on mental health whilst also comparing the positives and negatives of working freelance to being an office-based worker.

The effects of spending long days working alone means that 56% of freelancers said they suffer from depression as a result of their job, with a further 62% saying they feel stressed due to work. This is compared to office-based workers, where less than one in three (30%) said they suffer with depression and just 55% feel stressed.

The survey also found that freelancers find it harder to switch off from work when on holiday. Three in ten (30%) freelancers take their work laptop on holiday, with over half (54%) reading work emails and 48% replying to them. In comparison, less than half (13%) the number of office-based workers take a laptop away, 36% read emails and 30% reply.

Just 15% of freelancers said they avoid work altogether when on holiday, meaning that 85% never take a complete escape from their day-to-day routine. When it comes to office-based workers, 42% said they avoid work altogether. Despite this figure being lower, it still shows that 58% of the population aren’t taking a much-needed break to recharge batteries.

Loneliness was a common theme in the responses from freelancers. As well as 64% saying they feel lonely on a daily basis, when asked to rank the worst aspects of being a freelancer, feeling lonely at work was chosen by 53% of respondents. The lack of support for mental health issues came fifth in this list, showing that freelancers feel unsupported when it comes to this issue.

Bob Huibers, Marketing Executive at Viking, said about the research, “Freelance working is often seen as the dream working scenario, where you can set your own hours, choose your own clients and avoid that dreaded daily commute. We wanted to find out whether it lives up to this reputation and uncover some of the challenges faced by freelancers.

“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.”

Jenny Stallard, lifestyle journalist and founder of Freelance Feels, also commented, “Isolation and loneliness as a freelancer often seem to go hand in hand but taking small steps and recognising the signs is a good place to start. You don’t have to become a receipt-inputting marathon-running ninja overnight. But if you are feeling stressed by the isolation, a group class or some fresh air might be just what you need to reset.

“It’s ok to say if you’re not coping, and if you are really struggling, there are charities such as Samaritans that can help. Those in full time office roles can see freelancing as a holy grail, a wonderful way of life that we feel we need to live up to. It’s ok when we don’t – and we are entitled to say we’re not feeling ok.”