New Work, home office and the like are leading to a constant blending of private and professional life. For more than a third of freelancers, one of the biggest challenges is clear: the separation of the two areas (according to Freelancer Kompass 2022).
Reconciling family and career does not appear to be a major stress factor among freelancers: Only about one-tenth of the respondents in the Freelance.de market study cite this condition as a problem.
This suggests that freelancers have problems with work-life blending especially in your ego relationship.
You want to “overdeliver”, and that includes being available outside of your own working hours…
Give advice here, optimize a piece of code there….
But is strict separation even necessary?
For many freelancers, their self-employment is a calling. A clear choice for a free working life. Exciting projects, steep learning curve… And the dream of fulfillment, status and financial independence.
The self-determined work is perceived as meaningful. By identifying with the values behind them, one’s identity is often very much tied to the path of freelancing.
For all the identification and self-determination, the question remains:
How do I take care of my mental health as a freelancer?
We get to the bottom of this question with LinkedIn Top Voice & Mental Health Consultant Alan Herweg!
Work Life Blending vs Work Life Balance
– Hard cut or soft boundaries
Are people happier who allow the mixing of everyday life and work, or is a clear separation recommended?
Alan Herweg: “Various scientific considerations unsurprisingly show one thing: blanket statements don’t work, as they do in many other places. The inner worlds (i.e. the personality and values of freelancers) and the external factors (such as demographic characteristics, working conditions, other life circumstances) are too individual.
It seems obvious, however, that everyone is allowed to find his or her healthy balance of passionate identification and detached composure.
Both work together on an equal footing: If I feel that what I am doing is meaningful and I enjoy doing it, I am more likely to get into the flow and have the feeling that I am making a difference.
If I am, as it were, open to results, can switch off and let the work rest unfinished once in a while, I retain a life beyond the profession and do not neglect the other basic pillars of a satisfied life.
You should also charge the batteries before they are already completely in the red zone! You may be able to afford these breaks more often than you think.
Otherwise, proper communication (at eye level!) with clients can help here. Both upfront in discussing expected performance [what are the specific, realistic project goals, what is the timeframe?] and generally establishing a culture where the freelancer is seen as a human & not a machine.
According to Nonviolent Communication (ultra-short form: communicate evaluation separately from observation; formulate wishes instead of reproaches), by the way, you can probably expect more understanding if you likewise communicate understanding that it may be annoying that the project is now delayed a bit.”
What advice would you give to freelancers to protect themselves from burnout and the like?
Alan Herweg: “A big issue, which in turn needs specific solutions to individual problems. So I would like to insist on the essential generalities:
Yes, possibly we have heard it all before and it sounds so terribly nice and plausible. But I invite you to honestly explore the following sentences with yourself with the question: Am I really putting this into practice?
For example, an honest observation of one’s own current state, a comparison with the target state and an evaluation of the extent to which my needs are fulfilled and I simply enjoy living my everyday life.
Is my body sending me warning signals? Illness, exhaustion or something more drastic? Do I really know how I feel? Or have I already fallen into automatisms? Self-observation is the condition for self-reflection.
Through sincere self-reflection, self-efficacy can emerge: The knowledge of my resources and my abilities – but also that they are just exhausted. Very central to this, do not be distracted by thoughts of stigmatization:
“It is weak to admit my failure…”,
“Then how do I stand?”,
“I’m not crazy after all!” – et cetera…
It may be here really completely unprejudiced only about the own inner world and about what would be really serviceable for us. Accepting help is possible at any time.”
Is there some kind of strategic approach to mental health?
Alan Herweg: “It does in my eyes. Just as many of us can’t really control our bodies and push them to the limit, we’ve similarly never learned to get our heads around our own.
I consider it essential, and this is certainly my personal approach among many others, to understand one ‘s own hardware and software of brain and mind in general :
- What actually is a thought and how do I fathom it?
- How do I feel a feeling without letting it overwhelm me?
- Why do I have a voice in my head at all and how do I encounter it?
Thus, to understand themselves in individual everyday situations:
- Why does this specific thought strike me so?
- Why am I pushing away this current feeling?
- Do I really know if my inner voice is right at this very moment?
And thereby ultimately being able to produce Mental Health for themselves. This is how we become a specialist for ourselves. Personally, I like to work where modern rational neuroscience and existential philosophy agree.
All without incense and directly experienced through direct self-awareness.”
Freelancing & Illness
“It’s just that I have a cold. It’s enough if I don’t do any sports. Work must yes.”
If freelancers don’t work, they don’t earn Finance. Especially in the case of the Group, which is contractually billed on an hourly basis. So just get in the curd. Hustle Culture sends its regards….
Should I decide not to work: The obligation to the contracting company, as well as one’s own work ethic, leaves a sinking feeling in the stomach – the guilty conscience.
Either way… The disease passes with time. So… all good?
As a freelancer, how do I manage not to neglect my physical and mental health? When do I have to set the limit?
Alan Herweg: “There are two routes in particular:
The view of my own inner world and the perspective from the outside, from the system surrounding me.
Incense waving bead esotericists let it be known that everything just takes place within us.
Disillusioned world-despairers, in turn, find that the cruelly dystopian world out there alone prevents our happiness.
Let’s take the middle road! Of course, financial conditions and the maintenance of living standards must be taken into account. This may require uncomfortable work assignments.
But at the same time, only we ourselves can know how we’re really doing right now – and whether it’s worth working beyond our own resources right now. Is my existence really so endangered that I have to drive on my reserve fuel? It’s probably an individual decision:
What is more important to me – to finish the project, to be professionally successful and stable? Or rather to take care of one’s own health, even if it is linked to financial losses?
Perhaps there is also a compromise way: you may move forward in such situations in the smallest morsels, only doing less energy-consuming work or only work that you still feel like doing. You can then perform at 100% again when the illness is over.
Please be honest and empathetic with yourself – just as you would be with your best friend. Taking a sober inventory and looking at your own life plan can help.”