Are freelance consultants getting enough ‘me time’?

Workplace and wellbeing

14 March 2016

With a degree of control over working hours not available to office workers, it seems as though freelance consultants should be able to achieve the perfect balance between work and home.

Interestingly, in our recent survey of self-employed professionals*, we found that 68% agree that working from home gives them greater control over their personal lives.

However, when we look a little closer at the results, our survey shows that 'me time' tends to take a back seat. So are freelancers really striking the right work–life balance?

Blurred lines

One of the main challenges freelancers face is the lack of clear boundaries between home and office. More than half (55%) of the homeworkers we quizzed don't have a dedicated home office. Instead, one in ten work from their bedroom and a third work from the living room. Quite a few admit to working from the spare bedroom (14%) or the kitchen (7%), while some are set up in a cupboard, shed, or – very worryingly – the bathroom.

Long days

You'd imagine that no-one would choose to work more than ten hours a day, but a fifth of the freelancers we asked do. This number is made up of 12% working ten-hour days, a very small proportion working 11 or 12 hours per day, and 5% routinely working more than 12 hours each day. Most start their day between 8am and 10am, and one in ten continue working beyond 9pm – an impressive level of dedication, but surely a blow to that delicate work–life balance.

Always on the go

Although only a third of the professionals we asked said they feel obliged to be available at all times, the majority are always there when their clients need them. 60% of freelancers admit to working late or on days off, while half answer phone calls in their free time – and just under two thirds (64%) answer emails during their free time too. A similar number limit themselves to a short 'al-desko' lunch break, while 15% don't take one at all.

Missing out

A recent YouGov survey found that two in five small business owners have missed out on special occasions because of work commitments. From anniversary celebrations to picking the kids up from school, entrepreneurs often have to take a raincheck on life's little pleasures. More than one in ten have missed out on their own birthday parties – and one respondent even missed the birth of his child.

Get your work–life balance back on track

Despite all of this, our survey found that freelancers largely agree that working from home gives them the opportunity to have a better work–life balance. So here’s our top tips to help you get the balance right:

  • Aim to limit yourself to an eight-hour day, and resist the urge to constantly check emails when off-duty.
  • Take a full hour for lunch. Going for a stroll, visiting a local café or meeting up with a friend can help to clear the cobwebs and make you more productive.
  • Try to separate your work space from your living space. If you don't have room for a dedicated office at home, communal co-working spaces (which are typically kitted out with Wi-Fi, drinks facilities and meeting rooms) are an alternative worth considering.
  • Remember that it's okay to say 'no' if you’re at your limits. Your clients will appreciate this more than you working longer hours, becoming fatigued, and potentially making mistakes.

*Based on a study of 330 professionals working from home conducted by AXA Business Insurance in January 2016.