The voice of the flexible worker: takeaways from our webinar

Mark Griffiths
Head of Social Impact

We’re living in changing times. Flexible workers are set to make up over half of our workforce, and yet a lot of the thinking around flexible work is outdated. Case in point: 79% of flexible workers reported not having any access to paid sick leave in a recent study. (Let’s take a moment to consider the fact this is a legal right for employees.) 

Then there’s the stuff outside of fundamentals like sick and holiday pay. Social connection, self-improvement, training and education, a sense of being valued; a job is about so much more than simply earning money to live. But a huge proportion of people that make up our workforce aren’t getting to experience the full package. 

None of this is good for the on-demand businesses that rely on independent workers. In fact, 80% of flexible workers currently stay with each platform they use for less than a year.

So, what can businesses do to cultivate a happier, more motivated and more loyal pool of workers? 

Giving them a voice is the best place to start. It’s time to start listening – if one thing’s certain, independent workers have (quite rightly) got plenty to say.

This was the topic of discussion in our latest webinar, The Voice of the Worker – hosted by Ed Arnold, Customer Success Team Lead at Collective Benefits and featuring Claire Liddiard, Enterprise Customer Success Lead at eduMe, and Mark Griffiths, Head of Social Impact at Collective Benefits.

Here are the key takeaways 👇

Worker wellbeing is…

Claire says:

“I think worker wellbeing means the physical and mental health of our workers, especially in the environment that they're working in. With the deskless workforce, often that's not one physical space.”

Mark talks about how worker wellbeing is a modifiable characteristic; something that can be influenced by businesses. He highlights some of the key drivers of worker wellbeing as:

  • Autonomy
  • Feeling competent 
  • A feeling that your skills are being used
  • Social connections at work
  • A sense of emotional connection with the organisation you work for

There’s an informational disconnect where deskless workers are concerned – and it needs to be addressed

A study by Edume revealed that there’s an informational disconnect between businesses and the deskless workers they rely on. “This is impacting workers’ experiences, their wellbeing, and their desire to continue providing services for that company,” Claire explains. “One key finding was that companies are relying on outdated ways of reaching people.” 

The report showed that:

  • 61% of companies still rely on face-to-face or one-to-one training
  • Only 8% of companies utilise integrated and seamless mobile technology (like Edume) to train workers across their life cycle
  • 76% of workers said they weren’t administered the skills that they need to actually do their job better

Flexible workers do find meaning in their work

Mark talks about the results of a recent paper carried out by Collective Benefits called ‘Worker Wants and Needs in the UK Platform Economy’. The report surveyed 1000 platform economy workers from across the UK (who weren’t Collective Benefits users), as well as 1000 people who find work through traditional employment. 

It showed that independent workers overwhelmingly find meaning in their work and are satisfied with their work – more so than those in traditional modes of employment. Most also said they feel they’re fairly paid, even when taking into account non-paid time.

Flexible workers face a ‘triple risk’ 

Alongside the brighter results of the Worker Wants and Needs in the UK Platform Economy paper, it was also revealed that workers face a ‘triple risk’. Mark explains:

“Workers in the platform economy are much more likely to suffer mental or physical injuries and exposure to risks when carrying out their role. They also enjoy far fewer of the protections that many traditional workers take for granted – things like sick pay and accident insurance. And many of them do not have the financial reserves to withstand everyday life events, like welcoming a new child or needing to take time off when unwell.”

Businesses can and should be helping workers cope with the cost of living crisis

The cost of living crisis is taking its toll on vast swathes of the population. Mark highlights that flexible workers will be seeing a bigger percentage of their income going towards soaring fuel costs and other general living costs than other demographics. 

Here’s how Collective Benefits can help businesses support their workers in the face of these difficult times👇

  • Deals and discounts programmegives workers savings at big-name supermarkets, highstreet shops, and brands so they can enjoy a cheaper weekly shop, as well as more affordable treats like a discounted coffee on-the-go.
  • Fuel programmehelps workers afford fuel with 5p/litre off all major fuel brands, plus a buy-now-pay-later fuel card (a bit like Klarna). Workers also get access to a free fuel finder tool that means they can always find the cheapest deal in their area. 

Claire talks about the cost of living crisis too, explaining how Edume and its customers are helping workers cope with this through better training:

  • Edume customers are highlighting training that shows workers how to reach their earning potential, and faster.
  • Edume is working with companies, particularly in the on-demand delivery space, to help them help their workers be more operationally efficient. 
  • All of this is beneficial for both the worker, who can earn more, and the business, which delivers a more efficient service for its customers.

What leaders believe workers experience and what they actually experience often doesn’t align

Edume carried out a ‘mirrored questions’ exercise to try to understand whether leaders’ beliefs about their upskilling and communication endeavours actually align with what workers experience: 

  • 90% of leaders said they were providing workers with information to help them maximise their earnings, but 51% of workers said that information wasn’t reaching them.
  • Only 3% of leaders said they weren’t providing workers with information to help them do their jobs more effectively, but 39% of workers said they weren’t being given this information.
  • There was an average of a 43% point difference between what leaders believed about the state of communication and what workers experienced.

Focusing on worker wellbeing is good for platform economy businesses

Improving worker wellbeing is good for business. It means staff are more likely to stick around longer, do better work, and take less time off sick. 

One piece of research carried out by Collective Benefits showed that 74% of those who receive benefits and protections would describe the platform they use as a great place to work. Only 39% of those who don’t have any benefits or protections say the same.  

Siesta rooms and breakout pods: it’s time to get inventive

Looking after flexible workers comes with its own unique set of challenges. There are downfalls to ‘algorithm management’ (where people are managed through apps rather than in-person line managers due to the nature of flexible work and the sheer number of workers per business). Flexible workers often also don’t really get the same sense of community and connection that comes with traditional employment. 

This doesn’t mean improving flexible worker wellbeing is impossible, though. It just requires a different approach. Mark says:

“We shouldn't use this as an excuse for inaction. There's loads of stuff you can do. iFood in Brazil, for example, creates pods or pop up spaces where workers can get together and have a drink to refresh, chat, and make social ties. Gophr has team leaders even though many of their workers are independent workers – there’s that sense of cohesion and team spirit.”

Claire adds:

“I was just in Spain last week with an Edume customer. They have a whole floor dedicated to their riders, who can meet with each other, take a break, and wait for the next trip. And there's even a siesta room. So our companies are recognising how important it is to have that connection.”

Businesses should be offering flexible workers ongoing education, training and upskilling

Claire explains that deskless workers are demanding greater access to the kind of knowledge and information that will help them succeed. And how most companies aren’t currently doing enough in this respect:

  • 30% of deskless workers rate their current training as average.
  • 46% of deskless workers don’t even have that training to begin with.
  • 36% of workers said being given information to help them grow and develop would make them feel more loyal to the company they work for.
  • The general consensus amongst deskless workers is that their current training isn’t fast enough.
  • Businesses need to focus on upskilling and training workers quickly and efficiently so they can go out and succeed straight away.
  • Reactive training is also important, so workers can improve quickly when they get poor ratings – it’s not about punishing them, it’s about helping them get better, and good enough to be able to earn and feel satisfied by their work.

Businesses should be taking active measures to make flexible workers feel valued

“If someone feels valued, then they're going to feel more loyalty, more emotional attachment to the place where they work,” Mark says. He cites the fact that 77% of people with benefits and protections from Collective Benefits say that these protections make them feel more valued, and a similar number say they make them more likely to continue working through their existing platform.

Providing training, benefits, protections and bonuses are all great ways to let workers know that they are valued, and cared about by the company they work for. Mark sums things up pretty succinctly: 

“This is both good business sense, and morally the right thing to do.” Can’t argue with that 💪

Watch this space for our upcoming webinars, where we’ll continue to deep-dive into topics that affect platform economy businesses and flexible workers. See you next time!

Want to learn more about how Collective Benefits products support worker wellbeing? Click here.

July 27, 2022