A new survey has suggested that self-employed workers may spend as much as fourteen extra hours a week at work compared to regular employees. This adds up to an extra month every year. The survey also revealed more about the conditions and stresses facing self-employed workers.
In 2017, there were 4.8 million self-employed workers in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is around 15% of the overall work force and represents a 1.5 million person increase since 2001. This means around one in seven UK workers are working an additional month. The survey, conducted by an online accounting firm, questioned 1000 people regarding their working habits and attitudes.
Self-employed workers do not have the same employment rights and responsibilities as permanent employees. Challenges facing the self-employed include a lack of a reliable salary. Sick days or holidays mean that work is not done, which means no money. You become the only person responsible for your performance and cannot rely on others to take up the slack.
According to the research, 56% of the self-employed became so to have better control over their working hours and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead, many have found themselves facing worries over money, deadlines and lack of free time. 32% found there was a lack of support for the self-employed. Around 66% of respondents experienced sleep difficulties because of their work-related stress.
One of the primary sources of worry was financial. Of those who could not sleep, 72% cited concerns over money. Another 15% blamed deadlines – such as having the file a tax return by 31st of January – for their insomnia. 31% of respondents identified January as the most stressful time of the year. A tendency to work outside of traditional 9-5 hours may also contribute. As many as one in six participants were checking their email between 3am and 7am.
Checking emails is one of the main ways the self-employed find their work life intruding into their home time. Self-employed Millennials in particular are likely to use their personal laptop or phone for work business, with 80% continuously checking their email. This is compared to 72% of overall respondents. 13% of respondents had answered email or a work phone call in a public toilet, 11% whilst on the beach and 2% had even answered work-related communications whilst on a date.
This lack of work-life balance extends to a lack of holidays. The national holiday allowance taken by most permanent workers is 28 days. This is halved to 14 days on average for self-employed workers. As many as 13% of self-employed workers take no holidays from their work.
Typical working hours for the self-employed include starting the day before 8am for 39% of respondents, with 43% continuing to work until after 10pm. For 6% of respondents, start times could even be as early as between 4am and 5am. Women tended to work later than men.
Despite the difficulties of being self-employed, 86% of those questioned were happy they had taken on the challenge. One self-employed blogger, Emma Cossey, admitted that she may need to work harder because she is self-employed, but she did not mind because she enjoyed her work and that made it worthwhile.