23 million people took up on-demand work in 2020. Though this steep incline was undoubtedly linked to the global pandemic, the sector had already been doubling in size every 5 years, indicating that a move towards platform work was more than just a fleeting trend.
Independent workers are now a crucial demographic in numerous industries. Yet, many companies are still struggling to adapt to the dispersed nature of this growing workforce. Differing vastly from their deskbound counterparts, this agile group of workers has a unique set of needs, but employers are failing to recognize them - let alone cater to them.
To neglect worker wellbeing in the platform economy is to risk poor worker engagement, stifled productivity and higher turnover. That’s why it’s never been more important to understand what your independent contractors want and need from you in order to be happy and successful at work.
Read on to find out more about the current state of worker wellbeing in the gig economy, why prioritizing worker experience is so important, and five key steps to implement in your business.
What is the current state of worker wellbeing?
The research is clear: there is a huge discrepancy between how on-demand leaders think they’re doing when it comes to employee experience, and how workers perceive things. In a recent industry report by eduMe, 80% of leaders said they were frequently asking workers how they’re feeling, whereas 63% of workers said the opposite. On average, the report found that there was a 43 percentage point difference between the state of communications as reported by workers versus leaders.
In addition to a lack of communication, independent and deskless workers are also faced with an informational disconnect which negatively impacts their wellbeing at work. 61% of companies still rely on in-person training, and 76% of workers report that they weren’t being administered the skills training needed to do their job. Without access to the right information, workers are left isolated, vulnerable and disengaged.
Why is worker wellbeing important?
Underinvesting in worker wellbeing creates a domino effect - when platform workers feel unhappy in their roles, their work suffers, which leads to poor performance, low motivation and inevitable churn. This also impacts a platform’s operations, leading to worker shortages and an inability to cater to customers’ ever increasing demands.
The reality is that independent workers are already facing a difficult situation. The isolated, fragmented nature of the on-demand sector means that few workers have a human manager assigned to look out for their wellbeing and notice blockers as and when they occur. Flexible workers are also more likely to suffer injuries and experience mental health issues as a result of their work, yet they have fewer social protections and limited access to financial support. In fact, research by Collective Benefits shows that 10% lack enough savings to get safely through everyday financial events.
These difficulties alone are enough to make a platform worker look elsewhere, which is why it’s essential for employers to understand their workers’ needs and implement strategies that better support them. It’s a win-win: ensuring that your workers enjoy better wellbeing equals better performance and maximized earnings for them, and higher retention and increased productivity for your business.
How to improve worker wellbeing: 5 steps
Empower them with a voice
The importance of giving your flexible workers a voice cannot be overstated. Especially among deskless workers - who have no colleagues, and often no communal space to meet with their peers - feelings of loneliness and isolation are common. Feeling as though they’re being silenced or unable to speak up when things aren’t working for them worsens this isolation.
Making an effort to introduce regular opportunities for feedback can have a real impact in combating this problem, and goes a long way in improving wellbeing and engagement. Encouraging workers to share their experience and give suggestions to management not only makes them feel heard, but also makes them 4.6 times more likely to perform at their best.
We recommend implementing pulse surveys - a brief set of questions sent regularly to your workforce to keep a ‘pulse’ on how they’re feeling, with a 45% higher average response rate than your standard employee survey. Regular opportunities to give feedback show workers that their opinions are important to you, and higher response rates give you a better idea of how to improve their experience on your platform.
Act on feedback
It’s not enough just to source feedback; you also need to demonstrate that it’s been listened to and acted upon. Responding to feedback with action is actually one of the most effective retention strategies you can implement, with 44% of on-demand workers saying they would feel more loyal if their company routinely did this.
Failure to act on feedback can have the opposite effect, making companies appear insincere and unwilling to invest in the wellbeing of their independent workers.
Of course, not all requests can be met with an immediate fix. In that case, it’s important to still reassure your flexible workers that you’ve heard their concerns and put together a plan of action based on their feedback. Showing that you’re willing to find a solution that works for everyone demonstrates that - on your platform - worker wellbeing is a priority.
Strengthen the onboarding experience
Onboarding is a make or break moment for all employees, but none more so than a deskless worker. In such a saturated market, the stakes are remarkably low - it’s easy for gig workers to flit between platforms, which means you need to give them a reason to commit to yours over the numerous others available. A large part of this hinges on you standing out during the onboarding process.
Combat the isolated nature of deskless work by using your onboarding stage to inspire and motivate your workers, giving them everything they need to get set up and find success on your platform. This can be done by introducing your company culture and values, ensuring that they know exactly where to go if they have any issues or queries, and clearly defining which steps they need to take in order to get earning.
For platform workers especially, leveraging mobile platforms is key. 56% of workers prefer learning at the point of need - integrating onboarding information within the app they already use for work ensures that they are never left without support.
Speed up processes
In the platform economy it’s not just about quality, it’s also about speed. The majority of companies are getting new starters operational in under 3 days, but 72% of gig workers want this to be faster.
The quicker workers are able to get to the point of earning, the happier they’ll be on your platform. That’s why it’s important to upskill them in a quick and engaging way that enables them to go out and find success straight off the bat.
Providing seamless access to learning content reduces friction by removing the login process and saving valuable time. Eliminating these barriers to information means that workers are able to earn better and faster, and are more likely to stay on your platform.
Deliver ongoing training and upskilling
While onboarding is important, it only makes up 0.1% of a worker’s lifetime (provided you’re delivering on retention!) It’s therefore crucial to start as you mean to go on and continue differentiating yourself in the eyes of your workers, and in the quality of the ongoing training you deliver.
36% of on-demand workers say that information to help them grow and develop on the job would make them feel more loyal to a platform, and 21% said the same of information that would help them grow personally. Empowering workers to feel better during and outside of work is what will make the biggest impact, whether it’s providing courses on financial literacy during the cost of living crisis or ways to manage their mental health.
Investing in the wellbeing of your platform workers isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also essential to the success of your business. Workers who feel happy, safe and motivated at work are more likely to perform at their best, to stay loyal to your platform and become brand advocates, helping you to stand out against the competition.
To find out how eduMe’s mobile learning platform can help you improve the wellbeing of your workforce, get in touch today.