As I wrote in my last blog post titled, Temps Are People, Too, temporary and contract workers have become an essential segment of our economy, relied on heavily by business, government, and nonprofits to do work on an as-needed basis. From assembly line to executive and from unskilled to professional, these workers are contributing significantly to the work of organizations everywhere. Yet they are often not integrated into the culture of these organizations and this poses serious risks to the organization and to the worker.
One type of risk can be emotional. A temporary work situation can be very unsettling for someone even if it is by choice. A 2009 article in BusinessWeek makes this point:
Workers hired for temporary or contract work face a higher risk of developing mental health problems like depression, according to research presented in 2009 by Amélie Quesnel-Vallée of McGill University. A lack of job security and health-care benefits, as well as social ties to the rest of the workforce, increase stress levels for temps and contractors. A survey conducted in September by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that people who experienced a forced change in their employment during the last year were twice as likely to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness as individuals who hadn't experienced one.
And there is evidence that temps experience work accidents at a much higher rate than regular employees. Temps’ rate of accidents is probably attributable, in part, to their anxiety about being in such uncertain situations and to the failure of companies to adequately prepare, train, and support anyone who is in a risky job.
I wonder what other kinds of problems are created by this failure to train and support temps. Could it be that they don’t take it upon themselves to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be effective? Could it be that they don’t become strong team members? Could it be that they don’t communicate clearly and regularly with co-workers and managers? Could it be that they don’t engage in their work and therefore don’t do all they can to help organizations be successful? Could it be that they talk negatively about the company in conversation with people outside of the organization? All of this could be the case when organizations don’t create an environment in which workers, temporary as well as regular, are treated with the respect and attention that they deserve.