Do you feel more stressed lately? You are not alone

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Being one of the world’s largest creative communities, Creativepool is in a unique position to understand to what extent the creative industry is recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak.

We had the power to make a difference by asking about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses, employees and freelancers across the creative industries in the past year. We created two surveys and launched them as a follow-up to our first reportone for full-time employees and freelancers, one for business leaders from agencies, creative services, brands and creative companies. Both included a section for unemployed professionals.

This is one of a series of articles which will look at the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industries. This article will examine the effects of the lockdown on the mental health of creative professionals from all around the world. Here is what we found out, and why we think there’s hope.

The economy is in bad shape – and mental health follows

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the overall economy crisis has affected the creative industry quite significantly. When asked about their financial situation, our freelance respondents have painted an overall discouraging picture: 74.6% (nearly three-quarters) have stated that they are either earning much less or have no work at all [Graph 1]. Moreover, nearly 1 in 2 freelance businesses has been considerably affected by the pandemic [Graph 2], leading to loss of clients, finances or work. More information is available on our bespoke Freelancers Report.


Graph 1 - Freelancers Survey
Graph 2 - Freelancers Survey

Freelancers haven’t been the only ones affected: over 54% of the unemployed among our respondents have stated they have lost their job due to coronavirus [Graph 3]. With less opportunities available on the market for them [Graph 4], it is clear that both freelancers and unemployed creative professionals may be more vulnerable to mental health issues right now – though they are not the only ones.


Graph 3 - Jobseekers Survey


Graph 4 - Jobseekers Survey

When asked about their business’ productivity, most business leaders have stated that they have experience less work than usual [Graph 5]. The coronavirus economic crisis seems to have affected the creative industry not only in several sectors, but on different levels as well, with freelancers, employees and employers all struggling to keep forging ahead in the current climate. At the same time, nearly one third of the unemployed risks losing everything within the next 6 months.


Graph 5 - Business Leaders


Graph 6 - Jobseekers Survey

All of this has had serious consequences on the mental health of the respondents. 79.6% of our members have reported being moderately-to-considerably more stressed in this climate [Graph 7], and this could be due to a number of factors – including isolation, feelings of loneliness and, most importantly, financial difficulties. Business leaders were in a much similar situation, though their stress was considerably more moderate [Graph 8].


Graph 7 - Members Survey


Graph 8 - Business Leaders Survey

When asked about their finances, and their overall business, half of the freelancers have stated that they will need at least nearly a year for their business to get back on track [Graph 9]. This, paired with the financial difficulties experienced by business leaders we’ve seen above, paints a difficult scenario for the industry’s financial situation, and certainly for the industry’s mental health as well.


Graph 9 - Freelancers Survey

It does not help that most don’t (and objectively can’t) feel optimistic about future opportunities. In this climate of uncertainty it is quite difficult to make accurate predictions, and nearly 45% of our members is not sure about future job opportunities yet [Graph 10]. This is probably due to a general drop in relevant opportunities in the current job market, which is offering less and less roles for creative professionals all around the world.


Graph 10 - Jobseekers Survey

Here are some comments from our respondents:

"Honestly? Who actually knows [if the industry will improve]? I've answered as positively as I can, but I really don't believe anyone knows. I think it will be different from before. It’s the knock-on effect of lack of demand.

I think the Furlough scheme whilst being helpful at the time, is masking the situation. 50% in my company are waiting to be made redundant and I would imagine there are many more like this. I've seen general figures of 5-7 million people becoming unemployed after furlough. At the moment, I think furloughed staff stands at around 9 million.
Design Producer, Production Company, United Kingdom

My story doesn't differ from the usual stories of all of us. It was hard first to realise that my country would impose lockdown, then I had cancellations of 4 potential jobs one after the other. Uncertainty and anxiousness played a major trick on my mind during that phase. Then it was gradually easing as the number of cases started to decrease. Professionally speaking I don't have a clear idea on the future. I will keep it like that, until we know what the coming months will bring.
Fixer, Unemployed, Morocco

Did coronavirus cause a mental health crisis?

But all of this does not mean the entire industry is close to a mental and nervous breakdown. While it is true that the industry’s mental health has been heavily impacted, our data only shows one part of the bigger picture. In fact, it also shows some signs of recovery.

When asked about their new routine, a striking 79.9% has responded that they are moderately to considerably more comfortable while working from home, and of these, the vast majority (33.4%) was on the far right side of the spectrum – where 1 = Not at all and 5 = Considerably [Graph 10]. 


Graph 11 - Members Survey

So the industry is adapting, after all, and it might be only a matter of time before it bounces back. But that’s not all. Back in September we interviewed 7 top influencers in the industry, asking them more about the mental health crisis and what they were doing to fight it. It turns out that most leaders are doing their absolute best to support their teams, by making them feel secure, less stressed and at absolute ease in this challenging situation.

For those freelancers working from home, the lack of support from a leader may be quite discouraging, but they still have the chance to look for human connections outside of work. Use your network of friends or colleagues in the industry, reach out to other people, share your story somewhere and find an outlet for your concerns. Overall, try to remain as positive as you can. The industry is here to stay – and rest assured that most of your creative colleagues are keeping optimistic about the future of creativity [Graph 11].


Graph 11 - Business Leaders Survey

Here are some comments straight from our respondents:

"I am a Congolese citizen living in Kinshasa. I have started working at my new position at the beginning of the year. When the first COVID-19 positive case was found in our country (in March 10), we were informed to work from home straight away. The process was quite easy for us because the company implemented partial remote working a couple of months ago. The biggest impact was that we had to work at home 5 days/5. It caused some stress at the beginning, as my siblings would come and interrupt me for several reasons (just to say hello, just to see what I was doing or to ask for assistance).

My stress gradually vanished. My family was safe (everybody strictly respected the lockdown); the company was very supportive (HR continuously checks on us and I receive my full salary); I have restarted taking online fitness classes, and I am attending some new Literature classes online."
Digital Activation Specialist, Brand, Congo

At the start of the pandemic (the first three months) I was living on my own. Not leaving the house much, working from home and having no human contact was very strange, stressful and depressing. I was struggling to concentrate and focus on my work. The project I am still working on is for a company in Germany and I am producing and refining design prototypes. This work is quite regimented with two-week sections, so I couldn't fall behind. I felt the work I produced was of a lower quality; the ideas were quite basic.

After three months, me and my girlfriend, who lives in Manchester, decided I should move in with her as she was also struggling with loneliness. This has saved me, to be honest. My work ethic has massively improved and I'm taking real pride in the quality of the work I am producing. Overall I feel this has been a positive experience. I now really enjoy working from home. I have an amazing setup, much better than I had at work and I feel my mental health has improved as I no longer have to commute everyday. I do realise how hard this has been if you are not fortunate to have someone to spend lockdown with, and I empathise massively with them.
UX/UI Designer, Brand, United Kingdom

Creativepool Coronavirus Survey Report – Part 2

Header image: Rickie Marsden


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