Going self-employed and your mental health

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Sarah Henderson
08 Oct 2021 @ 11:10 am
in category: Contracting Life

Our friends at IPSE have recently carried out a survey on being self-employed and mental health, completed by a range of contractors and freelancers from across a variety of occupations. The results are eye-opening, with a host of fascinating positives and negatives, each with their impact on the mental health of the self-employed. Some are related to the effects of the pandemic, while others are associated more generally with life as a contractor.

The report itself makes for interesting reading, but we’ve summarised some of the key points here in case you’re in a hurry.

Mental health and self-employment: the positives

The report found that the majority of freelancers had found that being self-employed had a positive impact on their mental health. 80%, in fact. The main reasons for this were given as increased flexibility (70%), escaping office politics (70%), being their own boss (69%), and maintaining control over their work (67%).

This confirms things we’ve known at Kingsbridge for quite some time: that there are huge benefits to being self-employed, the bulk of which hinge around being in control of your own work and personal life, without one dictating the other. Flexibility and home working have long been attractions of contracting and freelancing and, recently, we’ve seen just how desirable they are with millions of employers and employees continuing to embrace flexible working post-lockdown.

Mental health and self-employment: the negatives

Of course, it would be naïve to assume that being self-employed is a bed of roses with no negative mental health implications whatsoever. More than half (53%) said that trying to find and secure work had a negative impact on their mental health, and around half also said that the irregular income involved was also a challenge. The same could be said about blurred boundaries between home life and work life (32%), the lack of statutory employment benefits (29%), and the long hours and tight deadlines often involved (28%). These are issues that raise stress for the self-employed, creating an environment that is detrimental to mental health.

The effects of the pandemic

We know contractors struggled throughout the pandemic from our own survey at the start of the year, which revealed that 70% were left without support – and you can find the results of our latest IR35 survey on the blog very soon. The latest IPSE survey breaks this down further.

Pre-pandemic, 68% described their mental health as “good” or “excellent” but this fell by 43% to just over a third as a result of COVID-19. This was most severe among women, with a drop of 54%. This rise in mental health issues seems to be directly driven by high levels of stress related to work during lockdown, with 32% saying they were highly stressed at this time. And when rating their level of job-related stress, one in 10 chose the highest possible rating.

How contractors are tacking mental health problems post-pandemic

Hopefully, now lockdown is over, work is picking up and things feel more secure. But this shouldn’t be relied on to improve mental health problems. The IPSE survey revealed that contractors have several different coping mechanisms, with 67% saying they made time to exercise, half said they made sure they had time for their hobbies and getting enough sleep, while 49% said they ensured they had a healthy diet.

However, only 17% said that they had sought help for their mental health problems. This help included online information and advice (12%), counselling and/or therapy (7%), and mental health helplines (1%).

This could be down to lack of easy access, prohibitive costs, long waiting times, or simply a lack of awareness. So, having help at hand could make a real difference during tough times. That’s why Kingsbridge is partnered with Equipsme to offer health insurance policies specifically designed for contractors. Among all of the things you would expect such as 24/7 GP access, physio sessions and extended health checks, there is a stress support helpline that offers support for work-related, personal and lifestyle matters. Through it, you can also access up to eight telephone or online counselling sessions, and up to eight face-to-face counselling sessions.

The health insurance can also be adapted to include your partner and any children. For more information, contact us today.

If you feel that you’re in crisis and need to speak to someone immediately, Samaritans are just a phone call away. A Samaritan is at the end of the phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Simply call 116 123 for free. 

If you feel you are at risk of suicide or self-harm call 999 or go straight to your nearest A&E.


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