Loneliness is an epidemic in the UK - and effects 25 million people across our country. It not only shortens life-spans but also reduces productivity, creativity and motivation. The shift in recent years to remote working and the effects of COVID have had a dramatic knock on effect to people feeling isolated - and a group of people that isolation can affect dramatically is the self-employed.
Indeed, it's a common assumption that freelancers will struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Our research shows that over 70% have felt affected by isolation and loneliness when self-employed.
Often for those new to freelancing, the sudden shift to having a team around them, to shouldering the responsibility for everything - doing the work, accounting, new biz, marketing, admin, development, legals - can be a shock to the system.
Even established freelancers can feel disconnected and very much on their own - and the move to more organisations means often freelancers are not spending time in their clients offices as much.
The answer for those individuals is to build support networks - taking the time to join communities, create connections, and building their own team. Projects like Leapers exist to support freelancers creating support networks - and there are many communities who offer connection and support for independent workers across different sectors and categories.
As a client, you're also part of this team, and can also play a valuable role in supporting the freelancer in tackling isolation.
Clients can open their doors to their workspaces (I've had a number of clients recently welcome me into their space - even though we're not working together currently).
Clients can create horizontal connections between their freelancers.
Clients can check-in and catch-up with their freelance alumni to see how things are going, or share updates on what impact a project they worked on together had.
Playing a support role provides multiple benefits for you as a client.
Firstly, the positive mental health of your independents directly relates to their productivity, quality of work, and ability to work.
Secondly, it creates a positive relationship between you and your extended workforce - freelancers are more likely to work again with clients who have supported them, and when building a network of trusted collaborators who you can work with again and again, this is essential.
Finally - it builds your reputation as a Freelance Friendly organisation, furthering your ability to attract and work with new independents who build your capabilities over time.
As a client - you play an important part in the support system of your freelancers, and working together effectively is an important part of your talent strategy as an organisation.