Study: Variable pay for gig workers is associated with health problems

Pay volatility appears to predict poor health outcomes across a wide variety of incomes . Pay volatility was not only related to poor health in lower-paid tipped jobs or as freelancers in the gig economy .

Washington, D.C., December 8, 2018: Gig workers, waiters, salespeople, and others who depend on fluctuating wages may be paying for reduced sleep quality, headaches, stomach pain, and back pain in three studies spanning several industries in the United States.The study was published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.Pay volatility appears to predict poor health outcomes across a wide variety of incomes, according to study author Gordon Sayre, PhD, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Emlyon Business School in France.Pay volatility was not only related to poor health in lower-paid tipped jobs or as freelancers in the gig economy, but also for higher-paid workers in finance, sales and marketing, where commissions and reward are commonly applied, according to a survey conducted for two weeks.

Participants reported receiving tips on 80% of their workdays, with an average daily tip total of $36.18, accounting for a quarter of their total income on average.Large changes in daily income over the two-week period were linked to negative physical health issues and poor sleep quality.The association was stronger when volatile wages made up a larger share of the participants' total pay, according to the study.375 people in the United States participated in another study that measured a median of 29 hours a week on Amazons Mechanical Turk, a website where gig workers can perform various tasks for low price points.

Workers completed monthly checks for three months, and wage volatility was less detrimental to health when they were less dependent on commissions or bonuses.Mindfulness, or focusing on the present moment, has been shown to help with stress in other areas of work and life.In this study, individual mindfulness was tested, but it did not help with the physical symptoms associated with volatile wages.However, businesses should assess whether volatile forms of compensation (e.g., tips, piece-rate work, performance bonuses, and commissions) are important and ensure that more stable forms of compensation account for a larger proportion of workers' total income, Sayre said.Memberships are also a way for employees to secure better protections against fluctuating pay, says Sayre.

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