The ability to work whenever you want and earn money at your own rate has been the bedrock of the gig economy, a loosely defined kind of contract work that typically means workers operate as independent contractors, providing services through apps.
These traits also promise to offer relief from the mental health pitfalls of a regular job: no cubicles, no early morning meetings, and no impossible deadlines. Gig workers can pick up shifts around their existing schedules while alleviating some financial strain.
However, where some workers see flexibility, others see a lack of structure that can exacerbate issues like anxiety and depression. The precarious nature of gig economy earnings can increase feelings of stress and added pressure that traditional labor doesn’t have. All of which means this promising new free market system can also be extremely damaging for its workers’ mental health.
With burnout on the rise, more folks are considering the lure of gig economy work. In fact, a 2018 Gallup poll found that around 36 percent of all workers in the United States have some sort of alternative arrangement.
One of the most damaging aspects of the gig economy is the feeling that workers can never really earn as much as they’re promised. Numerous reports have found that most Uber and Lyft drivers earn less than promised.
“When you’re operating under that mindset, it becomes very hard to prioritize other needs,” says Dr. Yavar Moghimi, chief psychiatric medical officer for AmeriHealth Caritas. “Everything else kind of gets dropped for the pursuit of whatever the next bar is.”
Moghimi says that when gig work is purely supplemental — on top of disability pay or in addition to a spouse’s income, for example — it can be positive. But for those who are relying on their gig work full time to pay the bills, it can exacerbate existing issues.