Flexible workers want more hours


Key takeaways

  • Flexible workers are working full-time or more and still looking for additional hours.
  • Most flexible workers who want to do full-time work intend to combine it with flexible work.
  • Using extra income to pay for essentials is a prime motivation for flexible workers.

Recently we surveyed thousands of the workers on our platform about their situation in the labor market. One astonishing fact came through loud and clear: Even in one of the tightest labor markets in history, these people are looking for – and not always finding – more hours.

It's not because they're unqualified. They fill thousands of shifts on our platform every day, and our system of ratings and reputation suggests that our business Partners are overwhelmingly satisfied. Rather, it's because growth in the supply of flexible labor is far outpacing growth in demand, even as – and perhaps explaining why – businesses in many sectors struggle to hire permanent employees.

Full-time plus flexible

In the survey, we asked our Pros how many hours they currently worked at all jobs, and also how many they would like to work. Among those who were active in the labor force, these were the results:

28 Mar 2023 Pro SOTU working hours

About half of Pros were already working full-time hours between all their jobs. And many more Pros preferred to work full-time than were actually working full-time. Indeed, half of the Pros surveyed said they wanted to move up to a category with more hours, while 36% wanted to stay in the same category. Only 14% preferred to move down to a category with fewer hours.

Yet even among the minority of Pros who already had a full-time job, 56% said they were still looking for flexible work at the time of the survey. And among Pros who were looking for a full-time job, only 16% said they would stop doing flexible work if they found one.

These workers are clearly committed to flexibility – it's an important factor in their labor supply. For companies that are having trouble filling gaps in staffing, looking beyond traditional forms of employment could help. There are plenty of workers ready to take on more shifts, as long as they can do so on a flexible basis.

A pressing need for work

This willingness to supply flexible labor comes partly out of preference but primarily out of necessity. Two thirds of our Pros choose the modality of flexible work for – you guessed it – the flexibility, and another 38% cite the ability to be their own bosses. But what they do with the extra income they earn is especially revealing:

28 Mar 2023 Pro SOTU reasons

Three quarters of Pros use at least part of their earnings to pay for essentials. So perhaps it's not surprising that among the Pros who worked a total of more than 60 hours a week between all their jobs, only 36% wanted to work less. Among Pros who worked 41 to 60 hours a week, that share dropped only to 28%.

Many Pros are working because they have to, and many Pros want to work even more. These data suggest that a willing segment of the workforce is still underemployed, despite the tightness of the labor market. The question is whether businesses that need staff will pursue this segment "where it lives" by switching permanent positions to flexible labor.

We will continue to track statistics like these on a monthly basis with our new time-series data, debuting next week in our Monthly Labor Market Report for March 2023. Please look for it then!


Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 3/16/2023 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:

  • $0.03 drop in hourly pay
  • 0.3% point drop in share of short-notice shifts
  • 0.1 hours rise in hours per existing worker

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