Nearly half of freelancers said they feel lonely and isolated in a recent survey by Epson EcoTank.

The research – based on a survey of 1,000 UK freelancers by print maker Epson – found that most freelancers (91%) worked from home at least some of the time.

When asked why they had chosen to freelance or work remotely, respondents said that a better work/life balance (53%) and greater flexibility (62%) were among their reasons.

Solo working challenges

But while 54% of respondents to Epson’s study declared freelance life ‘liberating’, 48% admitted to finding it ‘lonely’ and 46% said it was ‘isolating’. The absence of an office social life is felt keenly by some – almost a third of respondents said they missed office banter and being part of a team.

Solo working can present more serious repercussions too. A quarter said they had experienced frequent periods of depression. And around a fifth claimed that the loneliness of remote working had caused them to have suicidal thoughts.

“It’s very clear that the leap into self-employment brings many changes, most of them beneficial,” Annika Fagerstrom, head of consumer products at Epson UK, said. “However, for those lacking structure or support, solo working can be tough.”

Vital part of the economy

There are an estimated five million self-employed people in the UK. They contributed around £271 billion to the government’s coffers in 2017. Some predict that by 2020, half of the workforce will be freelancing.

Epson said it conducted the research as it recognises this vital working sector and wanted to take an objective look at the world of self employment and tackle its challenges head on.

As part of this initiative, the company launched a pop-up working space for freelancers, bloggers and other remote workers in London’s Covent Garden at the beginning of September. There, workers can take advantage of free wifi, and access workshops covering topics such as invoicing, branding and GDPR. It is open until the end of this month.

Epson has also recommended some simple steps that remote workers can take if they are feeling isolated:

Meet up with somebody during the day. This could be a former colleague, friend, business contact or fellow freelancer. The important thing is to punctuate the working day with some good company.

Join local networking groups. Many towns and regions have business networking groups; find them through your local/industry press or on LinkedIn. Although many have a web presence, they often hold in-person meetings and events, too. You may even find a peer to collaborate with.

Get mobile. If you have the right technologies and apps, and they are quite easy to come by now, you can work more or less anywhere, including areas where people congregate such as cafes and libraries.

Make friends online. There are many freelancer forums and industry-specific networking groups and forums online, the trick is to find one that suits you. Once you’ve done that, you always have somewhere to go for a chat.

Remember that you are not alone. There are literally millions of solo workers in the UK and many millions more worldwide. Freelancers are at the vanguard of the new working world — all they need are the tools to make the most of it.