This weekend you can click on “place order” for a meal delivery. Or hop on a ride to meet friends. In both cases you hire a gig worker.
“Gig worker” is a term that generally refers to people getting work through smartphone apps — think Uber, Ola, AirTasker, Snappr, and others.
While gigs may be a great way to earn some extra cash, our new research based on a survey of Australian gig workers, they found that they are more stressed than other types of workers.
We also looked at coping strategies to find out how these employees can take better care of themselves.
Gig work is uncertain work
There are some key things that define the job of a gig and can make it more stressful.
Gig work is generally unpredictable – you usually don’t know when the next performance is coming. That means you’re likely to experience uncertainty – both around your time and your money – you can cause stress†
Our online survey of 49 gig workers found that they reported more stress than the general population, regardless of the number of platforms or employers they worked for.
Participants were also more likely to be stressed if they worked fewer hours per week or earned less than $20,000 each year. A recent Canadian study also found that gig workers felt powerless and that financial pressures contributed to increased stress.
We found that having a higher level of education (such as a university degree or postgraduate qualification) was associated with increased stress at gig workers. This can be the case for people who make gigs to pay the bills while looking for a job in their chosen field, such as university students or people who came to live in Australia from abroad.
make things better
We looked at how gig workers can better manage stress and which coping strategies may be most helpful.
The most effective methods were emotional support (from family, friends or other gig workers), planning and active coping strategies who consider challenges, then draw on available resources to seek help and find solutions to overcome them.
avoidance strategies (dissolution, denial, venting) increased stress for the people in our study. These findings are consistent with those reported by people with highly stressful jobs, including: intensive care nurses and student teachers†
Interestingly, some coping strategies that seem to be helpful to other groups of people aren’t as helpful to gig workers. Trying to better understand a stressful situation, positive reframing and acceptance are for example: effective for police officersbut do not have the same benefits for gig workers.
This may be because the stressors faced by handymen are intrinsic to their job characteristics (insecurity, low incomes, unpredictable working hours) rather than the content of the work they have to do on a shift.
So, what does this mean for Australian gig workers?
While we may not be able to change the nature of these work arrangements (yet), we can recommend certain strategies for managing stress.
Getting support from family and friends is likely to be helpful, as is making a plan for as much finance and work time as possible. For some people, this may mean deciding ahead of time when to ‘sign up’ and make themselves available for gigs, while also taking some time off each week.
On the other hand, handymen should try not to use avoidant strategies, such as trying to ignore the stressful issue, withdrawing from social activities, or seeking distracting risky behaviors. Instead, they should try to take an active role in solving problems as they arise.
Despite the increase in Australians doing various types of gigs, there’s still a lot we don’t know. This is a new area of research and it is difficult to collect data with such a wide range of involved people not congregating in one workplace.
Despite the challenges, it is critical that policies (as well as psychological support services) consider the potential impact of insecure, unstable work arrangements on workers’ stress and mental well-being.