Flexibility in the Gig Economy: Managing Time on Three Online Piecework Platforms
New Technology, Work and Employment, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 10, 2018
Gig economy platforms seem to provide extreme temporal flexibility to workers, giving them full control over how to spend each hour and minute of the day. What constraints do workers face when attempting to exercise this flexibility? We use 30 worker interviews and other data to compare three online piecework platforms with differing histories and worker demographics: Mechanical Turk, MobileWorks, and CloudFactory. We find that structural constraints (availability of work and degree of worker dependence on the work) as well as cultural-cognitive constraints (procrastination and presenteeism) limit worker control over scheduling in practice. The severity of these constraints varies significantly between platforms, the formally freest platform presenting the greatest structural and cultural-cognitive constraints. We also find that workers have developed informal practices, tools, and communities to address these constraints. We conclude that focusing on outcomes rather than control is a more fruitful way to assess flexible working arrangements.
Keywords: Microwork, Flexible Scheduling, Flextime, Non-Standard Work, Crowd Employment, Crowdsourcing, ICTs, Sociomateriality, Labour Process
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