5 tips for better mental health as a contractor

Good mental health helps us relax, achieve more and basically enjoy life more. And while contracting has many benefits, it also comes with unique challenges and pressures. Constant moving around, coping with deadlines and seeking new assignments can all take its toll on your mental health.  

With mental health in the workplace becoming more recognised and talked about, it is important to discover what works for you. 

Here are some tips that can help you manage the stresses of being a contractor which may have a negative impact on your mental well-being.

1. Manage uncertainty

While many contractors enjoy variety and pace of change, the challenge of finding consecutive assignments to earn a consistent living can be stressful. It can also be tricky to balance giving each contract 100% while actively looking for the next opportunity. 

Fear of the unknown is a major trigger for anxiety, so information plays a really big part in managing uncertainty. Keep the lines of communication open with both your agency and the client engaging your services. This will give you a clear picture of the status of your contract, and also what contract roles may be opening up in the market. 

2. Don’t drown

Contracting can be the key to a healthy work – life balance, or it can totally throw it out the window! Hours can be irregular, especially if you are working in a busy environment or up against strict deadlines. Maintaining this over time can lead to mental burnout.

Decent hirers should recognise that overworked, stressed out contractors are not productive or efficient for their business. If you start to feel you are drowning, have a chat with whoever you report to on the job about adjusting your hours or blocking out uninterrupted time in your diary to meet a deadline. If the situation really is unworkable, check the notice period in your assignment schedule and speak to your recruitment agency about an alternative placement.

3. Manage expectations

As a contractor, saying no isn’t always easy; especially if you are out to impress and possibly get more work from the same client! 

However you have every right to set limits on what you can take on and deliver. It helps to put this in terms of how it might impact a project or assignment – for example by causing a delay. 

It also makes sense to set expectations for work you do at home or outside of normal hours – this includes picking up and responding to emails and messages. For good mental health, you need some time outside work to switch-off and de-stress.

4. Take time out

Following nicely on from that, is taking time out. Having a break from everything work-related is hugely beneficial to mental health. As a contractor, you are entitled to time off but many contractors also manage the timing of their assignments to fit in with holidays or family time.

As a Liquid Friday umbrella employee (or employed by any umbrella company who is doing things properly), you’re entitled to 28 days holiday per year (pro-rata). It is so important to always take regular time out to relax and recharge. 

5. Seek support

Contractors often miss out on the mental health benefits of permanent employees, such as wellness schemes and social activities. There is still a huge gap between permanent and contract workers. 

At Liquid Friday, we are really working to bridge that gap. Our contractors enjoy a benefits programme which gives them access to a host of wellbeing resources, online classes, gym discounts and travel offers. We’re due to enhance this package in the coming months, so watch this space for further information. We also have a 24/7 virtual GP service available to our contractors and their families.

Finally, if you feel you are struggling, reach out to one of the fantastic organisations which support mental health. Some numbers and links are below. 

Mind

For mental health information 0300 123 3393

Samaritans

0116 123

Mates in Mind

020 3510 5018