Freelancers lead the remote working revolution

Among most permanent employees, remote working is considered a luxury. The same, however, cannot be said about the growing number of freelancers and contractors in the UK, for whom working remotely is very much part and parcel of their lifestyle.

This isn’t just the stereotypical view of the working habits of the self-employed either. It’s a theory supported by research into working trends carried out by the association for the self-employed, IPSE, in collaboration with freelance jobs board, PeoplePerHour.

A telling 87% of freelancers and self-employed workers who took part in the survey revealed they have worked remotely in the past 12 months. When you compare this to the mere 6% of employees who told TUC they regularly worked from home in 2017, it’s clear that the UK’s remote working revolution is being driven by the independent workforce.

The data suggests that remote working isn’t something freelancers only do once in a while either. According to the research, the majority (62%) of independent professionals spend their typical week working remotely and not onsite with their clients.

You’d be unwise to make the assumption that millennials account for most of the individuals embracing this modern way of working too. The stats show that freelancers and contractors over the age of 55 are more likely to have worked remotely in the past year (86%) than younger respondents (80%).

Why do freelancers work remotely?

Generally speaking, this kind of research usually focuses on the relationship between remote working and productivity. Such studies often make the point that remote working increases a person’s level of output, while, at the same time, allows them to build a better work-life balance.

IPSE and PeoplePerHour’s data digs a little deeper, however, and explores the specific advantages of remote working - advantages that you could argue contribute to an upturn in productivity.

For example, 55% of freelancers said one of the reasons they work remotely is for the flexibility it offers, while 43% said it saves them valuable commuting time. 41% believe it helps them strike a better work-life balance. 27% explained it allows them to save money, presumably in travel costs. 20% see it as a good way to spend more time with loved ones - the same number of whom work remotely to reduce stress.

Where does remote working take place?

Clearly, there are plenty of benefits to working outside the confines of a traditional office. But where do freelancers and contractors spend their working days, if not onsite with their clients? Well, a staggering 97% of independent professionals who work remotely said they often do so from the comfort of their own home. 32% regularly pitch up and work from public places, such as coffee-shops. Nearly one in four (24%) use their time wisely when travelling and work on the move. While somewhat surprisingly, only 13% of freelancers work from coworking spaces or work-hubs.

What are the drawbacks of remote working?

Importantly, the whitepaper also considers the challenges that this increasingly popular way of working poses to freelancers. IPSE and PeoplePerHour highlighted the issues that people often face when trying to communicate with clients, not to mention the feeling of isolation that can result from spending the majority of their time working alone.

Encouragingly, 20% of freelancers said they haven’t experienced any disadvantages when working remotely. Those who have faced difficulty stated two main areas of concern: trouble maintaining a strong relationship with clients and the need for more human interaction.

Interestingly, loneliness was a bigger issue among millennials, who the report suggested might not have yet built up their confidence or adopted techniques to help them connect with people. Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s certainly something for freelancers to bear in mind.

So how do you create a healthy and productive remote working environment? 99% of individuals working this way made it clear they view technology as the key factor, with 78% of those unsurprisingly listing access to fast and reliable broadband as the priority.

While the report doesn’t explore ways freelancers can combat the mental health side of remote working, support groups, online communities and even work-hubs and coworking spaces each serve an important purpose.

Will more businesses embrace this way of working?

Despite these challenges, 93% of self-employed workers believe that remote working enhances their freelance experience. That said, when looking ahead, freelancers are split with regards to what the future holds for this liberating way of working. 35% expect all work will be carried out remotely, while 46% do not have faith in companies to allow remote working.

Although, whether certain businesses embrace remote working or not isn’t something freelancers need to worry about too much. As independents, these workers are ultimately in control of who they work for, when they work and where from.

Enhance your experience with Nixon Williams

Working remotely is a great benefit of working for yourself and so is increasing your take home pay and making the most of expenses. For more information about how Nixon Williams can help you boost your contracting career, visit our accountancy packages page.