Published on HR Daily
Workers who proactively engage in career planning and skill development can reduce the stress and career dissatisfaction that comes with job insecurity, new research shows.
It is becoming increasingly common for workers to experience uncertainty about their current and future jobs, with the number of temporary contracts increasing and more and more jobs being replaced by machines, the Curtin University and University of Amsterdam researchers say.
These perceptions can lead to more stress, poorer health and poorer career prospects, and policymakers have noted insecurity as one of the most rapidly accelerating psychosocial hazards in the workplace.
In their study of 432 current and former workers of a European staffing organisation, the researchers found engaging in proactive career behaviour, including career planning, skill development, career consultation and networking, can mitigate the lack of control that arises from insecure work situations.
They say, however, that different types of insecure work might call for different proactive coping efforts. For example, the above career behaviour didn't mitigate feelings of insecurity for those experiencing chronic insecure work – such as a high probability of a type of job being digitalised – as opposed to acute insecure work – such as a temporary contract expiring.
"Chronic insecure work situations might require longer-term strategies executed over considerable periods of time (e.g., transitioning to a new occupation; obtaining a new educational degree), whereas acute insecure work situations might require more immediate proactive behaviour."
In the eye of the beholder: How proactive coping alters perceptions of insecurity, Koen, J. and Parker, S. K., June 2020
COVID-19 insecurity is "less threatening"
Curtin University professor Sharon Parker tells HR Daily the feelings of job insecurity arising from automation and digitisation are distinct to those caused by pandemic-related job losses and uncertainty.
"The fact that many people are unemployed for reasons that are out of their control, probably makes it feel a bit less threatening," she says.
"There are more people unemployed, and people understand that it's not your fault... maybe right now, it's not as challenging as it can be for people during non-COVID times, where perhaps they were in the minority."
During this period of greater unemployment, Parker still encourages individuals to be proactive in improving their career opportunities. In doing so, unemployed members of the labour force will not only be better prepared to re-enter the workforce, but remaining productive will ease the stress of job insecurity, she says.
"Even though it might not necessarily lead to a job, it's going to help you into the future if you are thinking about these things and building the network, getting the skills that you might need," she says.
It's not going to do employees any harm, she notes. "It's probably going to help, and it's going to help [them] feel better as well."