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Technology

Loopholes in the growing gig economy

The future of gig work may be hybrid. FILE
The future of gig work may be hybrid. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The gig economy, best described as engagement of independent workers on short-term contracts has taken the world by storm. It has given many businesses and individuals’ access to a wide spectrum of talent both white and blue collar.

A blessing and a curse, on one hand it has opened up multiple revenue streams for talent that is now able to choose when to work and even filter from a pool of available opportunities, while on the other hand it has introduced risks such as depressed market prices, increased competition and job insecurity outside the moat of regular employment where benefits and perks are often part of the package.

Having started off as supplemental work for most, it has now evolved into ‘full time’ work with the freedom associated with the ability to control working hours, connectivity and tooling, touted as being central to this. In my opinion, the latter is a faux-freedom.

Freelancer and other on demand platforms are where these independent agents seek out work, or as positioned by platform owners, where work finds them. The biggest challenge for the platform owners is to hit scale and distribution having a good balance on both the demand and supply centres of their operations. I have discovered that it is near impossible, even with nuanced perks and incentives to keep gig workers loyal to one platform, unless of course it is the only platform available in a given market. This is also where the notion of faux-freedom comes in with many operatives simultaneously live on multiple platforms in an attempt to maximise on visibility of available jobs. It is not uncommon for your ondemand taxi driver to regale with tales of their experience across a number of different competing apps.

The biggest challenge with gig work, that has a net negative effect on user experience, is that of creating, distilling and entrenching culture that upholds service excellence. The camaraderie that if often found in traditional work settings is missing and many carry themselves around with a lopsided boss mentality. This results in the now common social media exposes of service providers gone ham, with platform owners scrambling to save face.

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The future of gig work may be hybrid, where the resources are semi-autonomous and linked to a solid procedure and reporting flow that will enforce an additional layer of professionalism, empathy, customer service and I also dare say common sense.

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