Thanks to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the working world as we know it has changed. Mental and physical health has become a focal point for many workers across the globe.
And perhaps that’s a good thing.
According to The Generation Effect, a study performed by Jeffrey C. Martin and Wayne Lewchuk, 4 in 10 millennials suggested their mental health was poor to fair, and almost half of those surveyed said that they are depressed or anxious about their current work situation.
Between the stress of work and the current health environment of the country, it’s no wonder more people are turning toward the gig economy. It allows you to be your own boss and experience a lot of career freedom, which can be good for your mental health.
But there are some potential health issues that you should be aware of if you’re considering a career in the gig economy.
The Drawbacks of Being Your Own Boss
The gig economy was growing in popularity even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. A big reason for its growth was/is due to more people wanting to work for themselves. A 2017 study by Upwork and the Freelancers Association found that 36% of the workforce in the U.S. are freelancers, and 63% of those freelancers prefer working gigs over a full-time job.
Being your own boss has its benefits. When you work in the gig economy, you can enjoy things like:
- Setting your own schedule
- Choosing your own jobs
- Deciding where to work
- Working on multiple projects to grow your skill sets
But there are also some risks that come with being your own boss. Companies can take care of you and encourage healthy lifestyles, especially during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workplaces have wellness programs in place that include everything from encouraging employees to get enough sleep to finding a work-life balance that prevents burnout.
It can be harder to find that balance when you’re working in the gig economy. It requires a lot of motivation and discipline to set specific hours for yourself. Plus, you’re dealing directly with clients, which can add to your stress levels. On one hand, doing gigs can reduce the stress you might feel in a traditional workplace. On the other, it can create new forms of stress that you weren’t expecting.
You’re Working With No Backup
One of the potential issues with working in the gig economy is that you’ll have to take care of your own health insurance, retirement fund or 401K, and any other medical costs that might come up. While it’s absolutely possible, you have to make enough of a steady income to purchase insurance, and that isn’t always easy for gig workers who pick and choose their jobs.
Additionally, for all of the flexibility it offers, there is no such thing as a formal “sick day” when you’re a gig worker. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. If you miss a deadline, you could lose a client or job. Obviously, that can add a lot of stress and anxiety to your life.
Things like sticking to a routine, having a home office space, and setting regular working hours can help you to be a top performer while working at home, but prepare yourself for the unexpected in order to keep your stress and anxiety down. No one else is there to take care of things for you.
You May Be On the “Front Lines”
Many gig workers have actually seen growth and prosperity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to over 13% in May 2020, and many industries including housing, hospitality, and B2B companies have been struggling. Other industries have started to see growth due to the Coronavirus, including streaming services, other forms of media, and delivery services for things like food and medications.
That’s one of the potential health risks and drawbacks of being in the gig economy. In the current climate of the country, for example, you’re putting yourself at risk each time you have to go out to deliver food if you work for a company like UberEats. You could also be setting yourself up for mental distress if you’re trying to meet extra demands for companies who want your writing or graphic design services.
Simply put, there will likely always be a need for gig economy workers, and because you can work from virtually anywhere, there may be more pressure put on you, which can impact your mental health.
Like any other job, working in the gig economy has its ups and downs. But, it’s up to you to make your health a priority in this line of work. Remember, in the gig economy, you’re in charge of everything, including your own wellbeing.