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I’ve almost finished reading “Gigs, Hustles & Temps ” by Jason Foster which is about precarious work and the negative impacts it creates on individuals, their families and society in general. While we might think of precarious work as something limited to Uber drivers, home cleaners and other gig workers, such work covers multiple industries spanning both public and private sector employment.

The author does a great job of highlighting the personal impacts of precarity such as reduced wages, reduced leverage with employers and delay or deferment of capital purchases, but the chapter on the economic impacts of precarious work resonated with me as it covers the productivity impacts when a large proportion of a company’s work force is experiencing precarity.

The author identifies three reasons for this:

  • Leadership teams don’t have the same motivation to train and develop precarious employees
  • Workers experiencing precarity are less likely to be invested in the organization and its long term success
  • There is a ripple effect on permanent, non-precarious staff as they see how precarious workers are treated by their company and are more likely to be concerned about how well they will be treated in the future

The author also writes about the link between precarity and reduced physical and psychological safety as employers are less inclined to invest in exceeding health & safety standards and workers are more like to experience high levels of ongoing stress.

But the kicker for me is this quote from the International Labour Organization of the United Nations (ILO): “The use of temporary workers can over time erode the motivation that workers have to contribute to the organization, and can lower the level of ability available in the organization to innovate or in other ways contribute to firm performance.

This made me think about the companies I’ve worked with over the years that had tried to increase their delivery agility and the relative differences in success between those which had few precarious workers and those which had much more.

While I wouldn’t consider it the sole cause, it is safe to say that those companies which had a higher percentage of workers in precarious positions were more likely to struggle with the transition, especially the organizational commitment to ongoing continuous improvement.

Precarity reduces safety, and without safety, nothing else matters.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores).

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