According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics and theAssociation of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), there are an estimated 5 million self-employed people in the UK, or around 15% of the labour force), having increased from 3.3 million (12% of the labour force) in 2001. This includes a rapidly growing freelance segment, consisting of an estimated 41% of all such workers.
79% of the freelancers believe that this offers them a greater flexibility and work-life balance. Along with flexibility and control, loneliness is an issue for many freelancers and self-employed people. The Gallup Wellbeing Index showed that 45% of entrepreneurs report being stressed compared to 42% of “other workers.” Entrepreneurs also were reported to have “worried a lot” — 34% vs. 30%.
Epson recently conducted online interviews from 1,000 nationally representative sample of freelance workers. All respondents were self-employed, a business partner or an SME owner. Quotas were applied to gender, the age of respondent and the region in which they reside to ensure that the sample is nationally representative.
The results are fascinating. 51% of female freelancers say they have very little to none human contact and interaction on an average day-to-day basis when they are working remotely, and the same was true for 52% of male freelancers. 46% of female freelancers and 51% of male freelancers agree that working remotely can be very lonely, and almost 30% of the group admitted that working alone from home has resulted in them being diagnosed with depression. The absence of an office social life is felt keenly by some; 32% of respondents said they missed office banter and 29% missed being part of a team.
As we become more aware of the challenges being faced and the mental health implications of working alone from home, co-working is becoming the new normal. There are currently 14,411 coworking spaces in the world today. The number of coworking members is expected to rise to 3.8 million by 2020 and 5.1 million by 2022.
As part of their commitment to support the growing freelance community, Epson recently launched an EcoTank pop-up, a unique retail and co-working space in London’s Covent Garden through September and October. This space not only celebrates and supports freelancers, homeworkers, students and families, it also showcase Epson’s latest range of EcoTank printers, their latest commitment to the eco-conscious lifestyle. The pop-up provides a collaborative and creative working space, that people are able to use around their own flexible work and family routines, enabled with free secure Wi-Fi, access to a kitchen for refreshments and, of course, unlimited printing.
With their Eco-Tank printers, Epson is driving forward an Environmental Vision 2050, where from the first sketch until its entry into a recycling process, all their products are developed and designed with an ecologically sustainable life cycle in mind. The printers are designed to offer ultra-low-cost per page and reduce the need for ink cartridges, hence reducing plastic pollution. There is a solid waste reduction environmental benefit associated with the high capacity refillable ink tank of the EcoTank, as compared to other inkjet printers which use disposable cartridges, saving on plastic disposal but also paper waste.
Epson has carried forward their environmental commitment in the design and operation of their pop-up coworking space. Using calming muted colours with bright splashes, a range of seating arrangements from private to more communal, and different lighting options, the pop-up EcoTank has also considered the mental health impact of workplace surroundings. Visitors also have access to more than forty expert-led workshops on relevant subjects, from finance to building a new business and the new technologies to watch, as well as craft workshops. Talks in social media, SEO and selling online are giving attendees the support and knowledge they need to help them prosper.
A quick survey on social media confirmed that more than 75% of freelancers and SME owners find the everyday administrative tasks time-consuming and frustrating. Through the trial period in September and October, the pop-up has also provided some very useful insights into the behaviours and expectations of the freelance community. It has shown that by taking away some of these stresses, the self-employed community has the time and space to focus on their key skills set. Currently, 34% of people using the store are women, and so the use of the space has countered growing perceptions that most of the freelance community are women.
Lucy Brackett, Marketing Services Manager Epson UK, says that “It’s very clear that the leap into self-employment brings many changes, most of them beneficial. However, for those lacking structure or support, solo working can be tough. Epson wants to be part of that support system and help the UK’s hard-working community of independent, flexible workers to thrive.”
AllWork reports that 83% of users of coworking and other forms of flexible space claim to have benefited from these new work environments over the last 5-10 years, 84% of people who use coworking spaces are more engaged and motivated and 89% of people who co-work reported being happier. We need more commitment from larger corporate organisations to support freelancers, and recognise their value as an asset to the global economy.