Precarious Gig Work Is Officially Bad For Your Health

People who rely on short-term, temporary, freelance work, or jobs where pay is dependent largely on tips, commissions and bonuses – often suffer poor health related to their financial insecurity, new research has shown.

Workers with fluctuating and unpredictable pay tend to have poorer sleep, more stress and miserable physical symptoms that affect their work and home life, said lead researcher Gordon Sayre, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Emlyon Business School in France.

“There’s a lot of research looking at how performance-based pay, commission-based pay, piece-rate based pay leads to higher levels of motivation or higher levels of performance. That’s been sort of fairly well-established, and that’s one of the reasons why these pay practices have become popular,” Sayre said.

But the problem is that these people aren’t fully in control of how much money they bring home.  They might be very talented and hardworking, but their efforts could be easily undermined by a tight economy, a business dry spell or customers who don’t tip.

In his research, workers who experienced more volatility in their pay over the weeks that Sayre followed them also tended to report more physical symptoms at the end of the study.  Things like headaches, stomach aches, backaches, eye strain, and they also reported more symptoms of insomnia.

Beyond the toll taken by stress, people constantly preoccupied by financial worries tend to neglect other factors in their lives that are important to their health.  According to Sayre: “You’re focused on remedying that source of scarcity, whether it’s earning more money by working more, whether it’s trying to find other sources of income, or whether it’s focused on budgeting more to save money.  And you’re not so worried about eating a healthy dinner or getting your hour of exercise that day because you have basically more pressing issues on your mind.”

So, it’s official.  Gig or other precarious work where you don’t control how much your income fluctuates can be bad for your health.


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