Michel Syrett, an established journalist, researcher, Director of The Cairn of Mental Health and CRSE member, lives with bipolar. He has been one of the few to study the differences between how the self-employed and employees feel about work. Michel argues that to understand the wellbeing of a freelancer, you have to look into four main areas: Financial Security, Mental Health, Social Support and General Wellbeing.
Michel suggests that the whole attitude towards freelancing has changed radically in the last ten years. They are no longer seen as just a ‘cost saving measure’, where they are “marginal, second-class”. Now we see employers are finding the skills gaps they need to fill are not always available from their employees – they need freelancers. Yet when hiring an independent professional, they need to find out what motivates them and how they can support them.
That is why Michel is leading the way on this issue, urging for more research and work to be done on the wellbeing of this now vital workforce. For many freelancers, the working day has its usual peaks and troughs. However, for others, the average day can become a seemingly impossible labyrinth to navigate.
For Michel, being a freelancer is the better way for him to manage his own mental health: “I can find it easier to gear my work pattern around my depressive episodes than I would ever do if I was in a full time job. If I was employed I would have to take sick leave – instead I can take time off when I need to. In fact, I find that by being this open about my mental health problems, I encounter much less stress. Being open about the subject is becoming quite acceptable.”
Of course, every individual’s wellbeing will be different, so self-employment will not be the best option for everyone. What Michel finds is increasingly apparent, is that more research needs to be done on how this style of working affects an individual’s wellbeing.
Take a look at what he had to say on why it’s important to focus on freelancers wellbeing when interviewed at IPSE’s 2016 policy conference.