How to achieve a work-life balance as a contractor

How to achieve a work-life balance as a contractor

In a recent study by LinkedIn, more than 4 million members who self-identified as contractors said that flexibility and the opportunity to prioritise what was important to them were the primary reasons that had led them into contracting work. While it’s true that contracting can offer greater control over how and when you work, this doesn’t automatically lead to a balanced lifestyle. Isolation and the continuous stress of finding contracts and managing your own workload are daily risks that must be managed in order to maintain a viable contracting career. With 5-9th of November marking National Stress Awareness Week, ContractingWise takes a timely look at how to combat stress through a productive work-life balance.

Find the right contracting model for you
Contracting isn’t just a ‘one size fits all’ career, and there are many options based on your level of experience and the aspects of your career that you want to prioritise. For example, when contractors operate through their own limited company, a recruitment agency can help with finding consistent work, while contracting through an umbrella company can take a lot of the stress out of getting paid on time. Being aware of the professional services that exist to help support contractors can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent searching for jobs or completing paperwork, which means there’s more time to spend on the things that are important to you, whether that’s family life or developing your career through training opportunities.

Communication is key
Research shows that people are happiest both personally and professionally when they feel that they’re understood, and communication is key to that understanding. Although contractors work independently, they must maintain open lines of communication with various stakeholders, such as recruitment agencies, clients, colleagues, family and friends. Whether it’s negotiating a contract with a client, explaining a task to a colleague, or letting your family know that you’re feeling under pressure, it’s crucial that contractors are able to communicate openly in order to avoid misunderstanding.

The ‘work-life merge’
The work-life merge is a term recently coined by Facebook executive Emily White. It means that rather than achieving balance through separation, it’s achieved through making day-to-day decisions based on a complete picture of your commitments on and off the job. This can be a particularly effective model for contractors who are often seeking flexibility and the ability to prioritise aspects of their personal and professional lives as they see fit.  Moving your personal and professional goal posts closer together means that you’re more likely to focus on achievements rather than unrealistic ideas of perfectionism. It can also increase your likelihood of finding work that reflects your personal values and interests, increasing your overall satisfaction.

If the work-life merge strikes you as a messy recipe for disaster, then there are some great apps on the market such to help with organising your life and keeping you on track. Here at Contracting Wise, our top go-to apps are

  • Clear: Clear organizes your life into digestible categories, making it possible to focus on your goals one at a time. Available for iOS, OS X, and Apple Watch with a customizable and easy to use interface.
  • Wunderlist: This is a collaborative to-do list app that helps you coordinate with your friends, family, and work colleagues. Available on almost every platform, Wunderlist works on all of your devices and for all of your team members.
  • Timely: This innovative time-tracking app not only keeps tabs on how long projects take, but also helps you organize your workweek more efficiently. By helping you understand how your workweek plays out, Timely helps you plan your next one.

Recharge, replenish and rebalance
Like most freelancers, contractors work without many of the benefits and support structures of permanent employees. That’s why it’s important to prioritise your physical and mental health by taking regular time out. One of the problems with the increasing overlap between our private and professional lives is that we never fully ‘switch off’ from work. While technology has helped productivity in many ways, it has also created demands of constant accessibility. Contractors tend to work intensively to complete a project, often working at irregular hours and locations. It’s essential that contractors balance the flexibility that technology affords them with the ability to unplug and recharge. Whether it’s socialising with friends, spending time with family, taking a holiday or joining a gym, your downtime should reenergise you and build your resilience levels.

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