Going it alone doesn’t mean being alone – Mental Health At Work
08/01/2020

Going it alone doesn’t mean being alone

Mike Cherry
Mike Cherry

FSB National Chairman

Since the turn of the millennium, the UK has seen a steady surge in the number of workers making the brave decision to go solo and become self-employed.

ONS stats show that the number of self-employed has increased to 4.8 million since 2001 with a particularly sharp rise among workers aged 65 and above and those aged between 16 and 24. Alongside the old and the young, we are also seeing more women, people with a disability and service leavers seeing the benefits of striking out on their own, and being their own boss.

Flexibility can be really helpful in managing a mental health condition.

One of the best benefits of being self-employed is the flexibility that it offers – you have the ability to pick and choose when, where and how you work. For someone with a mental health condition, who may otherwise struggle in a more traditional Monday to Friday 9-5 job, this flexibility can be really helpful in managing their condition.

At FSB, I have had conversations with members who have mental health conditions, such as depression​Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment PDF 0 0At least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. This report addresses some key questions about how depression can affect work. Free By: The Work Foundation View resource or bipolarBipolar disorderBipolar disorder is a mental health problem that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high), depressive episodes (feeling low), and potentially some psychotic...Find out more. These members speak about how the flexibility of self-employment allows them to schedule their work around their good days and their bad days. I also hear about how going it alone brings real meaning to people’s lives and the positive impact this can have on their condition.

A freelance musician works at home.

While these benefits cannot be understated, the challenges of self-employment must also be considered. Those who are self-employed are not able to rely on a secure income and are when they fall ill or have to take time off – unlike employees, the self-employed are not entitled to sick pay, or have access to Group Income Protection Insurance. Our research shows that many of the self-employed struggle to get their own income protection insurance. This is made even harder for those who have a diagnosed mental health condition and are often declined insurance due to their condition.

An extended period of time being unable to work, and having to rely on savings to keep afloat can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, or exacerbate an existing condition. The other real challenge of being self-employed is that it can be a lonely business. Often you work at home alone and may not talk to or meet anyone during a working day. This raises concerns over loneliness among the self-employed and the impact that this can have on one’s mental health.

Take the time to network, go to events and meet people in a similar situation.

My advice if you are self-employed is the same that I give to small businesses owners – a good first step to better mental health is to talk about it​Start the conversation Video 3 0One of the first, and easiest, things you can do to start improving mental health at work is simply to start a conversation. In this video, people from various industries talk about the importance of talking to someone.Free By: Dorset Mind View resource. Being self-employed and often working alone, it is even more important to reach out to friends, family, or those close to you and talk about work and mental health. Take the time to network, go to events and meet people in a similar situation where you can talk about the shared experience of going it alone and how it effects your mental health. Much more help is of course often needed beyond this and you shouldn’t forget that there are great services available from organisations like Mind Mind Mind provides advice and support on mental health, and campaigns to improve understanding, across England and Wales. View organisation who are there to help.

A small fast food business

This advice isn’t exclusive for those that are going it alone – if you are a small or micro business owner, it’s just as important. Much like the self-employed, these business owners are very often the HR department, the accounts team, digital manager and health and safety officer for their business – their businesses are usually not big enough. This brings with it a lot of extra pressure and can often leave people feeling isolated and lonely. This, or course, can impact someone’s mental health in a negative way.

Remember that if you’re self-employed and work on your own, you shouldn’t have to feel alone.