3 ways flexible work equips workers to survive recessions

Key takeaways

  • Flexible work provides a budgetary cushion for people who lose jobs and even for full-time workers who need extra money.
  • People who do flexible work can gain new skills by trying out different roles.
  • Flexible workers also expand their networks and counteract the economic cycle by working in different industries.

Our inaugural State of the Flexible Workforce report includes a huge number of insights about our Pros, including the main reasons that they do flexible work. For many, it's about making ends meet, with three quarters saying they used their extra income to pay for essentials. And this income usually goes on top of their usual wages and salaries – three quarters of those who said they preferred to have a full-time position also said they would keep working flexible shifts.

Against a backdrop of persistent inflation and higher interest rates, the promise of predictable extra income for flexible work has attracted a huge number of people to our Pro network. It took us about a year to go from 1 million Pros signed up to 2 million, and then less than half of 2022 to add a million more. But money isn't the only thing our Pros are finding on our platform, and their choices will only help them as the economy enters a new year full of uncertainty.

Picking up new skills

Many economists continue to expect a mild recession in 2023, which means that millions of workers may lose their jobs or have to reduce their hours. It stands to reason that workers with more options in the labor market will be the best equipped to deal with the downturn. On the Instawork platform, our Pros are getting prepared every day.

One of the surveys cited in our report found that 38% of Pros were doing flexible work to pick up new skills. Yet this isn't just a question of personal growth along a single career path. Our transaction data show that Pros are learning and exercising a variety of different roles. Here are the data for Pros who joined in the first half of 2022:

12 Dec 2022 Pro options - roles

Roughly half of these Pros have already worked at least two different roles on the platform this year, and close to a third have worked three or more roles. This versatility can only help them if and when the labor market begins to weaken.

Riding the economic cycle

Our Pros have also started to expand their options across industries. In our survey, about one in six Pros said they were doing flexible work to expand their networks. But an even larger number are doing so simply by working in different industries. Here are the numbers for the same group of Pros as in the chart above:

12 Dec 2022 Pro options - industries

Again, more than half of Pros have worked in more than one industry, with a third working in three or more.

These industries range from auto parts and airports to country clubs and cosmetics, spanning much of the market for in-person hourly work. As a result, our Pros have the opportunity to diversify their options in terms of the economic cycle. When demand in one industry is down, another may still be thriving – and our Pros can use our platform to go where the work is. In fact, they're doing it already.

 

Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 12/1/2022 to the previous two weeks. To control for the overall growth of the Instawork marketplace, only shifts involving businesses that booked shifts in both periods are included:

  • $0.31 rise in hourly pay

  • 0.9% point rise in share of short-notice shifts

  • 6.0 hours rise in hours per existing worker

To receive future briefings and data insights from our Economic Research team, please subscribe below. Follow Daniel Altman on Twitter at @AltmanEcon or on LinkedIn.

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