Like Baynes, many workers have — by choice or by necessity — stepped away from the security of full-time employment and become part of the gig economy.
“COVID’s silver lining is that it opened people’s minds about the definition of ‘work’ and led to a better understanding of gig labour,” says Steve Granger, assistant professor in the Department of Management, whose research at the John Molson School of Business takes a holistic look at how adversity is experienced on the job.
Although food-delivery apps often come to mind, the gig economy is primarily made up of knowledge workers, such as editors and software programmers. Granger notes that these remote jobs come with many positive attributes — a sense of autonomy chief among them, which is a key predictor of job satisfaction.
The constant need to hunt for the next assignment can be stressful, however.
“It’s a subtle anxiety that doesn’t afflict traditional workers,” says Granger, who is part of an international project called The Gig Work Life.
“The project is essentially a space to further the science and evidence around the experiences of gig workers and help them work in more sustainable and effective ways,” he adds.
Enabled by technology and driven by the fading promises of late-stage capitalism, the shift towards more autonomous remote work was accelerated by the pandemic. For some, this was a welcome change, eliminating stressful commutes and allowing for more independence. For others, however, the change blurred personal and professional boundaries and increased feelings of isolation.