It's Cold Outside: Measuring the Challenges of Independent (Gig) Work

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Scholarship on stress and resilience at work has repeatedly overlooked professional gig workers despite the rapid growth of this independent workforce. Studying such workers, especially under conditions of global disruption, offers an opportunity to expand theory on the role of personal resources in promoting resilience and well-being in the absence of the contextual resources traditionally offered by organizations. Drawing on the conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989) and using unique qualitative and quantitative data gathered prior to and during the COVID-19 global pandemic, we investigate the pandemic's impact on an international sample of professional gig workers and test the relationship between psychosocial resources and workers' well-being and resilience. Results suggest that workers experienced the pandemic as an environmental jolt (Meyer, 1982) that affected their working lives by shrinking the amount of gig work available, especially for women, and increasing the challenges associated with fluctuating emotions, organizing day-to-day work, and cultivating relationships. Further, we find that pre-pandemic levels of two theoretically informed personal resources—work meaningfulness and the emotional carrying capacity of these workers' networks—affect outcomes: Work meaningfulness is associated with cognitive and affective well-being, and emotional carrying capacity is associated with social and affective well-being, as well as psychological resilience. Taken together, this research provides novel insights into professional gig workers' experiences of and reactions to environmental jolts, and the personal resources that aid in their well-being and resilience.
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