Online gig working has become increasingly common in recent years – and yet understanding of how to effectively support these non-traditional workers is still limited. While temporary workers may benefit from greater flexibility and autonomy than traditional employees, they also face unique challenges: less job security, fewer resources for career development, and often a strong sense of alienation and difficulty finding meaning in their work. The authors conducted a study of over 300 digital concert workers in which they found that creating jobs on a personal and group level can help workers cultivate resilience in the face of these challenges. Given these findings, the authors recommend that concert workers work to create their work individually, but also proactively engage with communities that can help them develop their skills, identify new opportunities and to feel more connected. They also suggest that participatory work platforms themselves take steps to foster a sense of community among their workers to support their efforts to create jobs and ultimately secure a workforce. more resilient.
By 2023, the global gig economy, i.e. short-term project-based work, comprising both white-collar online work on platforms such as 99designs and the offline service work on platforms such as Uber, should be a $ 455 billion industry. Eleven percent of workers in the EU have participated in the odd-job economy, while up to 1 in 3 Americans who work depend on freelance for some or all of their income, with 2 million new workers joining the freelance workforce in the United States in 2020 alone.
Obviously, working together is here to stay. But while these workers represent a large (and growing) segment of the global economy, many organizations still have a limited understanding of how to effectively support them. For many white-collar workers in particular, working online offers more flexibility and autonomy than a traditional nine-to-five job, but it also presents unique challenges, such as less job security and fewer resources. formalities for career development. Additionally, unlike full-time work in which employees typically work with a fixed team, concert workers often work in isolation or with frequently changing clientele, which leads many to feel a strong feeling of alienation. The nature of freelance projects can also make it more difficult for workers to find meaning in their work, as they are often assigned to isolated micro-tasks and therefore do not have the opportunity to see the finished product.
These challenges can make working in concert extremely demotivating, but recent research suggests that a rewarding career in working in concert online is still possible. My colleagues and I conducted a series of in-depth investigations by focusing on digital concert work with more than 300 concert workers from the crowdsourcing platform MTurk to explore strategies that can help these workers cultivate resilience in the face of constant change and uncertainty.
To measure participants’ ability to overcome adversity, difficulties, or even positive but unexpected changes, we asked questions such as the likelihood that they expected to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, as well as the sustainability of their careers. in the concert. the economy were. Previous research has shown that job creation (proactively redefining your job to better reflect your strengths and interests) can help traditional employees find meaning in their jobs, and so we were interested in understanding how these strategies work. could be applied to working together.
By monitoring the general well-being of workers and their commitment to their careers, we found that concert workers who were proactively seeking new approaches to their tasks, processes or workspaces reported higher levels of resilience an year after the first survey interview. We have identified two distinct forms of job creation relevant for concert workers: individual crafts and group crafts. While concert work may seem like a solo operation, concert workers can actually benefit greatly from a community in which they learn from each other, feel a sense of belonging, and discover career opportunities. Based on our research, we’ve compiled several strategies to help both concert and platform workers build resilience through job creation:
Align work in concert with strengths and passions
At the individual level, our surveys have highlighted the impact of aligning work with the unique strengths and passions of workers. An advantage of group work is that workers have a high degree of autonomy in terms of when and where they work, as well as what they work on. By proactively examining the types of work they find most meaningful or interesting, actively seeking opportunities that match those preferences, and developing the skills needed to be successful in those fields, workers can take advantage of the freedom and the autonomy that work on stage offers to create work that works best for them.
As one participant in our study wrote: “[gig work] is a great way to get exposure to different types of projects and businesses. Another participant also appreciated the opportunity to gain experience with a variety of skills and tools, explaining, “I like learning how to use different tools to do the job more efficiently. It gives me the impression of developing skills.
Join a working community
Of course, part of what makes it harder to maintain resilience as a concert worker is the lack of support structures, resources, and built-in models to help workers create their jobs on their own. In traditional work environments, the interdependence between employees naturally promotes the collaborative creation of tasks, and these initiatives are often reinforced by formalized HR support. But in the odd-job economy, workers must proactively find (or build) their own communities to help them create jobs.
So what does this look like in practice? Some crowdworking platforms have built forum for their workers to connect and support each other, while other caseconcert workers have self-organized initiatives to help them share knowledge and seek better working conditions. Either way, collaborative task creation allows workers to work together to shape work practices, whether it’s sharing a tip that makes a certain task easier, a strategy for handling multiple simultaneous clients, or even a large effort. ladder to lobby for safer work. environment or a higher salary. For example, one participant described how the tools and advice available on a community forum helped him improve their time management skills and thus take on more projects: “With the help I received from others workers, I can earn more money more efficiently, ”they explained.
It is important to note that participation in these groups has an impact both for those who receive support and for those who give it. As one participant in our study explained, “I think I will improve at finding crowd work and my general knowledge as a crowd worker will increase over time. I will learn new little things, be more active in the community, and be able to help others instead of needing help. It’s not just about getting free advice, it’s about feeling like part of a community, in which everyone derives a sense of sharing experiences and helping each other.
Platforms have a role to play
While the relationship between platforms and gig workers can seem strained at times, ultimately everyone wins when workers are more motivated and connected. The concert economy cannot exist without concert workers, and therefore to make these business models viable in the long term, concert workers must be empowered to create collaborative and supportive communities that will foster their resilience. Platforms can help you in several ways:
In some cases, the platforms can create opportunities for workers to make connections. This can take the form of dating events, social media groups, forums, etc. For example, the popular independent platform Upwork hosts webinars, expert conferences and other events to help workers network and develop new skills. These events help workers learn how to use new tools, integrate new time management methods into their workflows, and keep abreast of new trends in their fields.
In other cases, a more direct approach is needed. Especially for platforms where gig workers compete with each other, workers may initially be hesitant to join a community or share advice with their rivals. To address this issue, platforms can develop features specifically designed to foster collaboration (such as built-in worker forums or the ability to comment on contributions from other workers), as well as explicitly encourage people-focused behaviors. community by offering monetary or non-monetary rewards. for experienced workers who use these tools to help others. Of course, it is also important to note that while providing workers with a space for interaction is a good first step, platforms must also ensure that these technical solutions are complemented by resources (support staff, teaching materials, etc. .) necessary to make them truly impactful.
A supportive and collaborative culture of job creation is essential to ensure both a resilient concert workforce in the short term and a healthy concert economy in the long term. In the absence of formal organizational resources, concert workers must take it upon themselves to develop their own supportive communities and pursue a proactive and collaborative approach to job creation. At the same time, it is also up to platforms to find new and creative ways to support the sense of community of their workers and encourage them to work together to create meaningful, motivating and sustainable jobs.