What’s harder: a marathon, a triathlon, or staying away from the biscuit tin when working from home? That’s the familiar struggle of many freelancers. Before the lockdown, Jessica Hayden asked freelancers what they eat in a day.
Freelancers will be all too aware of the initial introduction with somebody who works in an office: “Oh, you work from home? It must be nice to never go to work.”
In fact, when time is money, as it is for most self-employed people, taking a break can be a guilt trip. Taking a break to exercise or cook a healthy meal can feel impossible – in fact, only 21 per cent of those who work from home take a full hour for lunch.
Now that most employees are working from home too, they realise that it is not anything like a day off. As it turns out, being your own boss means exactly that – long hours and nobody to tell you when to stop. Only a quarter of those who work from home exercise every day, the temptation to just have another biscuit is sometimes overwhelming, and on some days it's hard to remember to eat at all.
Here are the real lifestyles of freelancers who work from home.
Hannah Rowe, 44, freelance PR/marketer from Cheddar, Somerset
I find it much easier to eat healthily and exercise as I work from home.
In a large office, it’s always someone’s birthday so there is usually cake around. As a freelancer, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, so I sometimes don’t even notice it is lunchtime.
On balance though, I think employees live a healthier lifestyle, as they have colleagues to support them if they want to be healthy, and companies are setting up healthy living schemes.
Tim Latham, 59, founder of Unretired LLP from Caythorpe, Lincolnshire
My business is very much concerned with healthy habits. We help people in their fifties and sixties with their health and wellbeing. However, I have to try really hard to be good myself.
Working from home can sound like an ideal situation, whereby exercise can be slotted into the working day, but any driven business owner will be tempted to keep working rather than take breaks for exercise.
Working predominantly from home also presents more temptation with food. I suspect setbacks for someone working at home might lead to comfort eating, whereas if working alongside colleagues it may just be a quick chat with colleagues.
Catherine Ross, 38, copywriter and internal communications specialist from West Sussex
When I work from home, I always achieve my 10,000 steps a day goal, go to the gym three times a week, and eat proper meals. In a client’s office, I tend to eat unhealthily – often eating cookies and cake – and I only do around 300 steps.
I’ve been freelancing for almost a decade, so I have learned not to have too many treats around the house. One of the benefits of working from home for me is that I can make time to do household chores which get me moving.
I think it can be easier to live a healthier lifestyle when you’re self-employed. Employees are too often tied to their desks, not feeling they can justify a lunchtime walk.
At home, I do have to be disciplined to make good choices, but the increased flexibility I get from setting my own timetable does make it easier to exercise.
Jas Shah, 33, freelance fintech consultant from London
For me, working from home means my diet is a lot more volatile, whereas when I was working full time it was a lot more regimented as I couldn’t cook my own healthy food. That being said, on busier days I often forget about lunch and just snack, then get to about 5pm, realise I haven’t eaten, then order a takeaway. I order a takeaway about twice a week, which equates to around £50 a week. I usually get a ‘cheeky Nando’s’ because it’s healthier than pizza.
I do exercise regularly, though. I go to the gym three times a week and cycle on my lunches, which means I get out of the house and get some fresh air. It also gives me an endorphin boost to get through the afternoon.
Faith Young, 48 and three quarters, freelance copywriter and PR support from Scarborough
There are days I don’t venture outside the door at all. To keep healthy, I run, as I can do this at any time, although I tend to run in the mornings, sometimes as early as 5.30am. I think being self-employed makes you healthier. I am much more organised with my time so I can fit everything in, including site visits, travel time, exercise and eating healthy food. An advantage of working from home is I can prepare meals from scratch – a spaghetti bolognaise can cook on the stove while I’m working!