Home alone? Perspectives on freelancer loneliness – and how to tackle it
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH LONELINESS AS A FREELANCER?
June 18, 2019
How do you deal with loneliness as a freelancer? To mark Loneliness Awareness Week, we asked Hoxbies to give their views.
Nearly 40 per cent of self-employed people say they’ve felt lonely since becoming their own boss. With the health risks of loneliness now being compared to those of smoking and obesity, it’s clear we need to tackle the problem head on.
We asked the Hoxby community to share their experiences of loneliness and what’s helped them alleviate it.
“I didn’t realise what I was feeling was loneliness until…"
“Working freelance from home is fantastic for fitting work in around time with my daughter,” says Kam Arkinstall. “It’s something I’m incredibly grateful for, and I know many people would love to have. But I have to say, I really miss the social interaction you get at an office.
“I didn’t realise what I was feeling was loneliness until I noticed that every time I had a video call or ran into a neighbour or the plumber came round, I’d have the urge to start explaining everything about my day, my work, my life. I was so desperate for people to talk to. Not to email, not to message, to actually talk to.
“I’ve also really missed having the chance to share work woes and challenges with other people who will understand the problems. My husband really tries, but our lines of work are so different he can’t do much more than listen.
“The problem is, once you feel isolated and lonely, it feels like a big step to put yourself back out there.”
The feeling Kam describes is not an isolated one. Loneliness can become self-perpetuating. Various studies have shown that once someone feels lonely they begin to doubt their social abilities and find it harder to put themselves back into the fray. Something that Kerry Kiel, Hoxby’s commercial director, has also experienced…
“It’s easy to let social anxiety get the best of you”
“In 2012, I fell in love. In 2013, I was engaged to the man of my dreams and, without thinking, I switched to remote working and later freelancing to fit in with the new, ever-changing lifestyle that came with my husband's career.
“Wow! I thought my first years at university were lonely but never had I experienced what it was to be in a new country and working from home. I couldn’t just join the ‘ladies who lunch’ or those on the school run, so I remember thinking… what now?
“It's easy to let social anxiety get the best of you. It's easy to observe and not engage, thinking things will come to you. It's easy to lose confidence in your abilities. It's easy to simply not ‘#PlayYourPart’ – as we say at Hoxby.”
So what are our Hoxbies’ tips for overcoming loneliness?
“Get out among people, it does help”
“If I feel lonely I will go and sit in a local cafe and just get out among people, it does help,” says Vivien Pailas. “I also try to meet with a friend for lunch once in a while too. The beauty of being freelance is that I can go to my local gym for a lunchtime class if deadlines and workload permit, every little bit helps.”
“I started volunteering around the same time that I went freelance,” adds Wai Fong Lai. “That really helps to offset any loneliness that comes along the way. I’m thoroughly enjoying trying out new skills and activities from learning to sew to archery (just don't stand anywhere near me!), to singing at Wembley and volunteering at the V&A.”
“Loneliness is normal. Reach out. Speak up."
“It’s hard, but you can take control,” says Kerry. “I had to convince and push myself during every day of my application to The Hoxby Collective. I decided it was okay if I failed, but I had to at least try.
“I joined Hoxby and I never looked back. I spend a lot of time away from my husband, away from my friends and away from my colleagues for the projects I work on. I could easily retract into my lonely bubble of despair, but not with Hoxby.”
“Being part of Hoxby has really helped,” agrees Kam. “Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. And that encouragement gave me the push to start a monthly ‘lean coffee’ call to talk about the challenges we face as freelancers. I’ve also started working from a co-working space a couple of days a week, something I’d been nervous about doing previously.”
Kerry adds: “To know there are people encouraging individual success and development every day here in the community means I never feel lonely wherever I am or whomever I am with (or not with).
“We are all social animals. Loneliness is normal. Reach out. Speak up. You'll be surprised how many of us are listening ❤️”
Loneliness Awareness Week is from 17 – 21 June. Run by Marmalade Trust, its aim is to reduce the stigma around loneliness. For more information, visit https://marmaladetrust.org/law.