When I was a kid, the only freelancers that I personally knew were starving artists, struggling writers, and independent contractors who did backbreaking work trying to make ends meet. Today’s trend toward working remotely, independently, and getting out from under the corporate thumb includes court reporting, marketing, project management, bookkeeping, consulting . . . the list goes on and on. And the majority of freelancers are far from starving.
In 2014, Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk commissioned a survey to find out just how large the freelance workforce had become in the United States. The results showed that an astonishing 53 million Americans have made the shift to become freelancers. From moonlighters to full-time freelance entrepreneurs, this new trend toward independence from the traditional 9–5 job is sweeping our nation.
Freelancing definitely has its perks (anyone up for working in their pajamas?), but it also creates a set of challenges — especially for freelancers who spend most of their time working from home. Here is a handful of problems you may have come across and ways your canine companion can help you overcome them.
1. Healthcare: Believe it or not, even people who work from the safety and security of their own living room can still have health issues. Large companies provide health insurance benefits to their employees, but purchasing your own healthcare coverage can be cost prohibitive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. In a study from Michigan State University, researchers found that dog ownership has a measurable impact on helping their owners reach exercise benchmarks, including having at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. It’s easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle when your freelance career requires hours of sitting in front of a computer. Your furry friend might be just the personal trainer you need to get moving.
2. Stress: Being your own boss and setting your own schedule eliminates the pressure of constantly being on someone else’s clock. But freelancers have their own stressors to contend with. Feast or famine cash flows, long work hours, and finding new clients are just a few of the things on the list.
In a 2002 study, researchers found that owners of companion animals performed better under stressful situations. By measuring changes in blood pressure and heart rate while each participant took a math test, researchers were able to identify that participants who owned a dog or cat had lower blood pressure and resting heart rates prior to the test and fewer spikes in their heart rate while solving the math problems.
3. Isolation: Although introverts may relish the idea of working alone, it’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and it’s even nicer when that special someone thinks all of your ideas are the best. Not only are dogs great listeners, they also offer a fun way to meet new people. Taking your dog for a walk at the park and getting the occasional knowing glance and smile from other dog lovers is proof enough that dogs create a social atmosphere without getting you looped into an awkward office party.
4. Time management: Sometimes it’s nice to sleep in. Occasionally, it’s okay to skip a meal as long as you’re eating healthy and getting all of the nutrients that your body and mind require. Admit it — it’s easy to get so caught up in your work that you just plain forget to eat, forget to move, and lose track of time.
Dogs have an uncanny knack for knowing what time it is. They know when the kids are supposed to be home from school, and they watch the door or listen for the sound of the school bus. Dogs know when it’s time for dinner and will stare at you, wagging their tail to let you know how excited they are that you’re about to get up and feed them. They know when it’s time to get up and go out, reminding you that you need to do a little leg-stretching yourself.
5. Balancing work and play: When you live in your office, it can be challenging to draw the line between where you work and where you play. Setting boundaries for yourself can be much more difficult than setting them for someone else. If you establish a routine for walks, feeding times, and evening recreation, your dog will be sure to give you reminders that it’s time to put away your laptop, put on your shoes, and go out to play.
Copyright 2017 by Julina Small