In the UK, employees are entitled to a minimum of twenty-eight days’ paid annual leave, and yet IPSE research shows that the average freelancer takes just twenty-four days of holiday per year.
Most freelancers agree that time off improves their work-life balance, has a positive effect on relationships, and eases feelings of stress and anxiety. But one in ten of us struggle to take a single day off in any given year.
You may not feel like you need much time off, but your mind and body think otherwise. Have you experienced unusual weight loss or weight gain? Feelings of irritability? Brain fog? A lack of motivation? Problems falling asleep or are you sleeping way more than you normally do? These are just a few of the many potential red flags that signal you need time off. Taking a holiday might seem counterproductive when you’re stressed or busy, but it can do wonders for your physical and mental health.
In regular employment, when you’re not performing at your best, the chances are this won’t have a major impact on the business as a whole, but when you are self-employed you make up 100% of the workforce. While that might sound scary, it also means that you only need to worry about giving one person the best possible break in order to dramatically improve company morale.
Here are four reasons to take time off:
Time off will help you look at the bigger picture
Taking a step back from business is great for reminding you what really matters in life. Once you take your foot off the gas, you will realise that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t posted on social media, or that you aren’t refreshing your inbox every three minutes. Life goes on while you take a rest. As freelancers, we often need to experience that first-hand.
Switching off your brain helps creativity
Time away from your desk is proven to boost your creativity. I thought that holidays during lockdown would be mind-numbing because in the past I’ve often had my best ideas when lying on a beach in Spain or hiking in the Scottish hills. But the reality is that switching off my brain and indulging in more accessible art forms such as films, books and poetry is just as powerful.
A break will help you cope with stress
A rested freelancer is less anxious and therefore better equipped to deal with challenges as they arise. Do you find yourself awake at night worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet? Do you fly off the handle easily when little things go wrong? Are you overwhelmed by everyday tasks that you normally do with ease? Time to clock off for a few days and recalibrate.
Work when is best for you
In an ideal world, every holiday would involve complete relaxation, but I don’t think it’s always realistic to completely disconnect from your business, especially when you’re just starting out. I’m not saying you should crack open your laptop and work for eight hours, but I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with checking your emails halfway through the week to make sure that there are no major fires that need putting out.
It can be hard to forget about work when you’re taking time off, and often this turns into anxiety about what awaits you when you return. If you find this overwhelming, then you might feel better popping online to check that everything is okay. But that is something that should be your decision and no one else’s, by which I mean as far as your clients are concerned, you are on holiday – and that means you’re uncontactable.
Fiona Thomas is an author and freelance writer with work published in iPaper, Grazia, Happiful Magazine and Huffington Post. Her most recent book ‘Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss’ is a guide to freelancing.