Advances in technology have been a major influence on the way we work today. They allow people to connect and coordinate effectively across distances. One of the major work-life shifts we’ve seen is the rise of the “gig economy.” The gig economy is a labor market that consists of part-time and freelance jobs rather than conventional nine-to-five jobs.
While the gig economy has been around for years, we’ve seen a significant spike in gig jobs since the onset and unraveling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are many obvious benefits to working under your own watch and not being tied down to a single employer, what are the effects of this type of life on mental health?
Understanding the Gig Economy
The rapid increase in digital technologies has been a major factor influencing the increase of gig jobs. The use of cutting-edge technologies allows people to coordinate across distances and organize secure payment schemes without ever having to meet in person or sign an officially binding contract.
Gig work can be anything from being an Uber driver or Uber Eats delivery person to being a specialized freelancer finding work online. Usually, the payment is secured by the use of a system that ensures individuals get timely payment on work they did. This relieves payment-related worries, letting freelancers work with confidence.
One of the many unfortunate aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the negative impacts on business and the major loss of jobs worldwide. With global lockdowns forcing many small-to-medium-sized companies to go out of business, many individuals lost their livelihoods.
This subsequently led to many people seeking alternative ways to make money and resorting to gig jobs. It also helped businesses stay afloat. For example, dine-in restaurants that were forced to close repositioned themselves in the market by catering for delivery service. Now the new gig model of work has gained serious traction, but what are its pros and cons?
Benefits of Working Gig Jobs
There’s no doubt that gig jobs have many advantages, and many people claim to be perfectly happy not committing to a nine-to-five schedule. Let’s look at what some of these benefits are:
Working on Your Own Schedule
Being able to set your own work hours gives people a lot more flexibility in life. This is especially advantageous if you have other significant things going on. For example, if you also need to take care of kids, are engaged in part-time study or are working on an important side project, setting your own hours gives flexibility.
Work From Anywhere
Being able to work from anywhere has always been considered a holy grail of work-life balance. However, due to the increase in pandemic-related travel restrictions, this has become less of a driving factor.
Low Entry Requirements
While there are many highly specialized freelance jobs such as content writing, SEO and graphic design, there are also many entry-level gig positions. Jobs like delivery driving and taxi services don’t require anything other than a means of travel.
Negatives of Working Gig Jobs
The positives are great, but what are the negative consequences of working a freelance or gig job? Let’s see how gig work can negatively impact life and mental health.
While the macro view is that the gig economy is booming forward with multitudes of new work opportunities arising, it looks a bit different on the ground level. Part-time gig work is great for flexibility, but are people getting enough work? Research has highlighted how underemployment in gig work contributes to psychological distress, with workers often wishing they had more hours.
With regular full-time jobs, you know you’re going to be paid a fixed amount each month even if you were a bit lazier than usual that month. Gig workers only get paid for the actual work done and often find themselves short of hours or work to do.
Without regular employment, there’s an inherent uncertainty. Gig work may fluctuate from day to day, and there may even be days with no work at all. This uncertainty can be a leading cause of psychological distress, especially for those with a family to feed. The lack of job security may lead to anxiety about the future.
Unlike conventional employees, gig workers don’t get a pension fund, health insurance or paid sick leave. They also don’t get paid holiday leave — if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. This lack of security about the future and lack of health protection may lead gig workers to feel vulnerable and insecure, leading to psychological distress.
Coping With Stress
If you’ve been suffering from stress because of the lack of certainty and security from gig work, you may be looking for ways to combat it. Here are some great ways to lower stress levels:
As uncertainty and insecurity are leading causes of stress from gig work, taking action to create more security in your life may be beneficial. You can do this by saving money, having multiple clients (security in numbers) or investing your money in long-term goals.
Plan for the Future
Planning for the future can reduce the uncertainty you may be feeling as a result of gig work. Perhaps you don’t need to do gig work forever, perhaps you can use the flexibility to start your own business or maybe you’re planning on going back to regular work.
Whatever it is, by having a solid achievable plan for the future, you can reduce the number of surprises along the way and increase your sense of security.
If you’ve been feeling at the mercy of your thoughts and anxieties, meditation is a great way of regaining control. Meditation is proven to improve mental health and boost mood. Regardless of whether your problems are from gig work or something else, unless you have full command over your mind, you won’t be able to tackle the problem in the most optimal way.
Making Changes to Improve Your Mental Health
Self-care and forward planning are great ways of decreasing psychological distress. However, if you’re thinking about quitting your job for mental health reasons and are struggling tremendously, contact us today at (844) 299-0618. Our team of mental health professionals is here to offer you support in your time of need.