Amber Stark

2020 Visionary Grant Winner Update: More Resources for Gig Workers

Gig work has been an increasingly popular topic over the past several years and has only become more relevant throughout the pandemic. Because of this, I-Os have been working to produce new research to provide best practices for this type of work.

The goal of the SIOP Visionary Circle award is to grant $100,000 to I-O psychologists who aim to change the nature of work. The 2020 winner of the Visionary Circle award was Dr. Sue Ashford, along with her team Dr. Brianna Caza, Dr. Brittany Lambert, Elizabeth Trinh, Bekki Steinman, and Jordan Nye Fekete. Their project aimed to learn about and support the livelihood of workers in the gig economy – “those who work ‘off the grid’ of all that an organization offers” – so that the field of I-O psychology could do more to support them.

 “Our research team remains incredibly grateful to the Visionary Circle for their support of this research on independent workers,” Ashford said. “Our structured interviews and ESM study will generate some good quantitative data regarding the day-to-day experiences of these workers to supplement the more inductive qualitative studies currently in the literature.”

Ashford proposed her study in early 2020, and since then the number of independent workers in the workforce and the challenges they face have only gotten larger. Given the nature of gig work, these individuals can be more susceptible to experiencing challenges from isolation and instability of work. Therefore, support resources have become increasingly in demand to meet the needs of the gig economy.

To understand these concerns, the research group first needed to determine from what gig workers would benefit most. After completing more than 50 interviews and conducting a workshop, it became clear that social connection is essential to a healthy work environment, especially a remote one. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most gig workers operate independently and have to meet their social needs in creative ways. Dr. Ashford’s team is using science to test a novel and promising solution for gig workers to socially connect.

The team is currently in the design and piloting phase of this project and is on track to launch this intervention within a year of receiving this grant. More results to come!

Explore the Gig Work Life website today to learn more about workers in the gig economy.

Projects for the 2021 Visionary Grant are being accepted until July 1. Learn more about the Visionary Circle grant competition here.

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