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Mental Health Awareness for Contractors

How to take care of your mental health when working outside the traditional office environment.

We all have mental health but with 1 in 4 of us reaching out for help in any given year (Mind), mental health awareness is an important part of modern business and there is a clear business case for creating a supportive work environment. However, with predictions that up to half of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020 it’s more important than ever that support systems are in place for those not operating in a typical office environment.

Self-employment offers a whole host of advantages from flexible working hours to higher income but it can sometimes be isolating, especially when working from home all week. Whilst you might be avoiding the stress of commuting and office politics, you are also missing out on the support of a HR manager, talking to colleagues and company perks designed to keep you happy and healthy.

There are a number of ways the self-employed can look after their mental health and there are organisations to speak to should you need support. At ICS we provide our employees with access to staff benefits including a confidential helpline but we realise that for freelancers and small business owners, finding that impartial help can be more difficult. Juggling assignments, working erratic hours and not having a fixed income can all take a toll on our mental wellbeing and as you are the business, it can seem impossible to take the time off to recover.

5 simple tips for maintaining good mental health:

Organisation – many people choose to go self-employed for the better work/life balance but it’s easy to get overinvested in work and spend more time on it than most full-time workers, albeit outside of usual office hours. Therefore, it is important to manage your time to ensure you are being efficient and, also, not undervaluing your work. By prioritising each task; whether checking emails, designing graphics or working on a pitch; you can guarantee yourself free time.

Reward Yourself – we are often our own worst critic especially when you’re the director of your own business. By setting targets we not only have a goal to work towards but when completed, we know we are deserving of a treat. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just a drink with a friend, a trip to the cinema or a day off to do something you love can clear any work-related stresses. It’s also been suggested that varying the people you spend time outside of work with can help, as if you’re constantly meeting with another stressed freelancer it’s unlikely to be helping you unwind.

Prepare for the Future – foresight is a valuable tool when dealing with the stresses of self-employment. For your business, planning ahead means you reduce the risk of unexpected shocks, whether financial or operational. The same should be true for your personal life and planning for retirement should start as early as possible to avoid unnecessary stress. It’s reported that over half of self-employed workers aren’t paying into a pension and this could be for a whole host of reasons but it’s a trend which is likely to increase the stress of those workers later in life. It’s definitely worth discussing your options with a qualified professional, the sooner you act the more you can save!

Know the Signs – as a self-employed worker you’re your own boss and, in the same way a manager would keep an eye out for signs of stress in their workforce, you need to monitor yourself. Stress and anxiety manifest in different ways with different people. Common signs include trouble sleeping, overeating, bad skin and increased unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking. When we realise we’re overworked it’s important to take a break and while you may worry about the implications to your business, the consequences of burning out can have a much bigger impact, especially when you are the business.

Delegate – many freelancers and small business owners attempt to do everything for their business, meaning you’ll often leave yourself stretched thin and unable to focus on what you are truly good at. A traditional business wouldn’t ask their web designer to do their accounts so why put the same pressure on yourself? Knowing which tasks to delegate and which to retain control of is a matter of personal preference and, of course, money, but by identifying the jobs you hate that take a long time and outsourcing them, you can take on more work and leave yourself less stressed in the process.

Helpful Organisations:

Samaritans

Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)     Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

Mind

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)    Website: www.mind.org.uk

CALM

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.

Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)     Website: www.thecalmzone.net

Alcoholics Anonymous

Phone: 0845 769 7555 (24-hour helpline)     Website: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

Gamblers Anonymous

Website: www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk

Narcotics Anonymous

Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily 10am to midnight)     Website: www.ukna.org

Recommended Reading:

The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters

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