Flexibility in the Gig Economy: Managing Time on Three Online Piecework Platforms

17 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018

See all articles by Vili Lehdonvirta

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 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 different 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 on worker control is a more fruitful way to assess flexible working arrangements.

Keywords: flexible scheduling, work‐life balance, labour process, non‐standard work, gig work, microwork, social media, sociomateriality

Suggested Citation

Lehdonvirta, Vili, Flexibility in the Gig Economy: Managing Time on Three Online Piecework Platforms (March 2018). New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 13-29, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3139074 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12102

Vili Lehdonvirta (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

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