It may seem glamorous in the movies, but the reality isn’t all roses.
There’s no doubt that there are many benefits to working from home.
While it’s been the norm for freelance- strong professions such as bookkeepers, copywriters, and virtual assistants for years, the last year has seen a vast increase in the number of people joining the community of those who work in their pyjamas.
Not having to deal with office politics, no commute, and a better work-life balance are very appealing, and let’s face it- the opportunity to work in yoga pants really is the dream, especially if you’re a mum!
New freelancers may be enjoying their newfound freedom and independence, but there are downsides to being your own boss.
Stress and Overwhelm in The Workplace
Stress is inevitable in almost every workplace. How you deal with it varies depending on the situation and environment, but you’re likely to feel the pressure at one point or another in your career.
Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can help to sharpen your focus, make your work more efficient, and cause a surge of adrenaline to help get you over a deadline. Many people claim to thrive under stress and pressure, although those people should be wary of doing so for extended periods due to the negative effect of stress on the body.
Being overwhelmed at work can manifest in several ways, including being irritable, emotional, or anxious, losing sleep, feeling fatigued, or losing interest in work and life in general.
Often, in an office environment, you’re able to approach a boss, trusted colleague, or Human Resources for support, but what about if you’re the boss?
Stress and Overwhelm When Your Workplace is Your Home
Although freelancers often love the freedom to work when and where they want, it can be an isolating and lonely life.
In an office, you get used to the sound of people buzzing around you, the clacking of typing, the phones ringing, colleagues chatting- the sound of work.
The ambient noise at home is very different, and it can take a while to get used to the quiet. You may find yourself distracted by the neighbours gardening or even the sound of birds.
TOP TIP: If you feel like the silence is threatening to overwhelm you, try using music to fill the void.
Alternatively, try listening to these background office sounds while you’re working!
Noise isn’t the only distraction at home. Chores often seem to call out just as you’re about to get started, or your kids or partner might wander in, asking for snacks.
TOP TIP: Set yourself a timetable where you’re “uncontactable” to your family or chores during your work hours.
Creatively Finding Support
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in many unprecedented ways, including presenting freelance bookkeepers with a fresh set of challenges to keep them on their toes.
Not having someone to bounce ideas off or give your work a once over can be another source of stress. A second pair of eyes to spot an error can help lift the weight off your shoulders, so not having that option increases the pressure.
Bookkeepers and accountants in 2020 and 2021 were faced with the unique challenge of having to contact industry associations and the ATO for clarification and assistance, thanks to several changes in tax awards and the addition of schemes like JobKeeper, JobMaker and JobSeeker,
These associations and departments were inundated with queries, leading to delays and confusion.
In an office situation, there is usually the opportunity to confer with colleagues and get support from others just a few desks over; however, this support doesn’t exist as a freelancer.
Bookkeepers have had to find new and creative ways to find answers to complex problems.
Research, contacting the ATO and other associations for support and answers, and setting up group chats with other bookkeeping professionals to be able to consult with one another in addition to their usual, work has added another layer of stress to an already sensitive vocation.
The pressure to get it right for your clients is always there, but not having enough guidance and support to ensure compliance, is an added stressor that many may not have considered in the last year.
TOP TIP: If you’re missing the interaction, create a virtual “water cooler” by setting up a group chat with other bookkeepers or people within your industry. Being able to bounce ideas off others who can relate will help alleviate the feeling of isolation.
When You’re Sick, Tired, and Absent
Unsurprisingly, when the stress finally does overwhelm you, and you’re hit with an illness of some kind, there is no cover or sick pay.
If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid.
When you work for yourself, you can’t help but go above and beyond for your clients. Your business is an extension of you, and it isn’t unusual to find a freelancer working in the wee hours to hit a deadline, perfect a project, or ensure that records are up to date and concise, even when they’re sick as a dog.
You will often find yourself working outside of regular hours to get everything done on time, to deliver top-notch results to your clients.
This can put a strain on your relationship with your partner when you find yourself spending more time with your laptop than with them.
If you’re in a specific niche like bookkeeping, it can be hard to offload onto your partner because the information is sensitive, and you risk breaking confidentiality, leading to more feelings of isolation.
It’s essential to ensure that you take time out for yourself and your family on a regular basis. Becoming too entrenched in your work will leave you feeling burnt out, which will add even more pressure.
TOP TIP: Take some time during the day to break away from what you’re doing. Go for a walk, do a dance in the lounge room, or do an exercise class. A healthy body is a healthy mind, so you must put yourself before your work.
If you can, go for lunch or coffee with a friend (after all, you’re the boss, you make the rules!) or take an early mark and spend quality time with your family.
Doing what we love without a break will lead to stress and overwhelm. Being the gold standard is noble but never at the expense of your health.
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