Can Networking Help Self-Employed with Mental Health?

When you're self-employed there may be moments, days or weeks where you're on your own with little or no contact with other people in the workplace, leaving you feeling isolated and alone in your efforts.

But don't fear, as this issue has now been picked up by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). They are encouraging the UK's 5.5 million small business owners to get in contact with each other and start networking. This is being done through their Wellbeing in Small Business Hub which includes their guide to how you can help your mental wellbeing and that of your employees.

Working alone

According to recent figures, in the UK in 2017, 15.1% of the entire workforce was registered as self-employed1, a figure which has seen a slight increase over the past few years. The FSB has found through research that loneliness is one of the top 3 concerns when it comes to self-employment. So what can be done about it?

Working alone can lead to increased stress as there is no-one there to share your worries with and all the decision making falls to you. In order to help with this the FSB are urging small business owners and the self-employed to make use of local and online networking in order to connect with other people in the same, or a similar, situation. As well as just talking your problems through with another person, you may find that they have faced the same issues as you and have managed to find a way to overcome them. This could mean they are willing to impart useful advice on what you can do to overcome your main problems.

The FSB has helpfully put together a guide on useful steps which can be taken in order to improve your state of wellbeing.

How to set-up your network

There are many different ways you can go about setting up a network. These vary depending on whether you're looking locally or further afield.

Starting Locally

Try reaching out to any local business groups in your area. This can be a good way of getting to know people in your area and getting to know some of the local problems with running a business.

Try and reach out to your local Economic Development / Inward Investment Team. They are set up in order to help local businesses establish themselves and find the right networks.

Look up local business networks and meeting. Going to a local networking breakfast or networking event can help you to connect with local small business owners. These are relaxed, friendly and informal ways to meet new people and learn a little about the businesses in your area. They can also turn into regular social events and can give you access to a new business partner or collaboration.

Not so locally

Look out for Chamber of Commerce events to go to. You may not want to go to all of them but there may be ones which are useful and effective for your business.

Look for events based in your industry but outside of your local area. If you're operating in a niche industry and there are no useful networks around you, don't be afraid to venture out into other localities in order to find an event that's useful to you.

Summing Up

While networking isn't everyone's cup of tea it can become an essential part of your business day. Take a break from your desk, go and meet new people who are like minded and can offer an insight into new ideas for your business. You may find that you're not feeling as lonely or stressed once you've been around others for a while.

Other places that you may find useful:

  • Mind is a charity that helps with mental health. Their website also has a workplace mental health section.
  • Time to Change is a national campaign led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. They offer help and guidance in the workplace in order to stop the stigma of mental health.

1. Information accessed 04/06/2018 from ONS Article: Trends in self-employment in the UK

All facts and figures correct at time of writing.

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