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Mental wellbeing for freelancers

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Forgotten freelancers

Well-being at work has never been more topical than it has been during the COVID crisis. Since the start of the pandemic, it has been one of the most challenging hurdles faced by freelancers and employers alike. 

The reality is that freelancers and contractors are exposed to the same physical and mental challenges as permanent employees. However, all too often they are overlooked in an organisation’s planning for their work force’s well being. In this article, we make the case that this should not be the case. In fact, the opposite.


A happy freelancer is a happy employer

It is common for freelancers not to see themselves as full members of an organization. Many employers and full time employees feel the same about freelancers. Understandably, this can lead to feelings of exclusion and isolation. However, employers would be well advised to think about the physical and mental health of freelancers and contractors. 

A freelancer’s well being has a direct effect on the company’s success. Building a positive connection between the freelancer and the organization fosters a sense of belonging which in turn contributes to better mental health. All of this has a positive impact on productivity and quality of their output. 

So what can employers do at a practical level to ensure that this happens? Here are a few simple suggestions. 

  • Give freelancers a good induction when they join
  • Include freelancers in company email updates or town halls 
  • Why not send them the basket of fruit that the regular employee gets or include them in other softer benefits 
  • Consider extending training initiatives to freelancers
  • Give feedback on their performance so they can develop their skills
  • Recognise their wins and publicise their achievements

After all, a happy freelancer is a happy employer.


The legal side of things

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 in Ireland, employers had a duty to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees, be that an employment relationship of a fixed or temporary duration. Safety in this regard covers their physical and psychological safety. 

If the legislation is to be applied to freelancers and contractors, then employers should cater for them in their provisions for health and safety. For example, the Health and Safety Authority recommends organisations create a Home Working Policy. Employers need to ensure that the home working environment is appropriate with regards to equipment, ergonomics, light, and so on. They also recommend establishing training around taking breaks. All of this should be applied to contractors and freelancers.


It’s a two way street

Of course with employer obligations come reciprocal responsibilities from the freelancer or contractor. The freelancer is obliged to observe the health and safety rules that apply to employees of the company. On the softer side, freelancers should consider responding positively to efforts made by the organisation to include them in company updates or other initiatives. Good relationships are a two way street.


Self care for freelancers

As much as the employer has responsibilities in relation to freelancers, freelancers can do a lot to provide for their own physical and mental health. Here are a few simple suggestions that freelancers can take on board. Maybe you’ve heard them all before but they are certainly worth repeating. 

  • Organize your day according to how you perform best 
  • Set boundaries between work time and home time. This is especially important when working from home where this boundary is more blurry without a commute to define the day.
  • Take several short breaks that give you time to clear your head. 
  • Make sure you’re only contact with people is not via email. Make a phone call to someone you love.
  • Try to schedule a day without online meetings. Get off the computer screen. Walk to the shops and get some fresh air.
  • Be kind to yourself. 

Taking care of the indispensable expertise and flexibility that freelancers bring can only be a good thing for an organisation. A good relationship means that a freelancer will can to work with you again and will go the extra mile to make you project their priority.

Based on an article from our sister site in Belgium https://www.jellow.be/blog/werkgevers/welzijn-op-het-werk-bij-freelancers.

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