Uber’s ability to attract hundreds, or even thousands, of drivers in every city it operates in stems from the strong appeal of the opt-in work week. Drivers can choose to work whenever they want, and for as many hours as they want, and there’s no need to ask anyone for vacation.
“Talent wants to opt in and out at their leisure, it’s the ultimate convenience."
Imagine if you are required to work about 40 hours a week, but on your own schedule, with an option to work at home?
In a typical accounting firm, working full-time as a salaried employee means you can work as few as 30 hours a week, or as much as 80 hours a week, if that’s how long it takes to meet your deadlines. I’ve seen many of my colleagues in the accounting profession deal with the ugly side of that work-week model.
In that model, a few things change for the employer. They may not always be able to expect that you’ll be at your desk at any given time, and they may need to develop new requirements about cell phone accessibility, but ultimately, they can still develop job descriptions for the same number of people to accomplish the same amount of work.
With the opt-in work week, everything changes.
Say that my skill as an accountant , a firm is willing to hire me, even though I only want to work 20 hours a week most of the time, but I still want to receive ample wages to fuel my activities for the additional 20 hours a week I now have to fill.
Someone else only wants to work 10 hours. And another worker has a highly specialized skill, but wants to spread her talent out among several ventures, so she only has five hours a week to spare.
Each of these employees now acts like their own consulting firm, and the employer has to adopt a new team-based model for ensuring the job gets done on time.
For Uber, the ‘job’ is picking up all of the passengers who request a ride at a given time, within a reasonable amount of time. It makes no difference to Uber if that is accomplished by two drivers or 20. If it can’t be done in a reasonable amount of time with only two drivers, Uber can offer additional incentives to bring in more drivers.
To match Uber, my fictitious accounting firm would need to adjust to a team-based deadline model, with incentives to make sure the job gets done on time by somebody, even if the 5-hours-a-week-employee and the 10-hours-a-week-employee both decide not to work this month.
In the past, this kind of flexibility has only been available in independent contractor jobs like tutoring, or appointment-only hair-cutting, or other self-employed gigs, where the only thing at stake was your own income level, not a company’s ability to complete tax returns and audits.
Will the Uber business model actually drive this kind of paradigm shift in the work week? The shift into the ‘gig’ economy is being viewed with varying reactions from embracing it to eyeing it with caution.
Do you want to work as you need the money, but still having access to coworkers and collaboration and the resources of an employer. Is Uber building a culture where employees are nurtured and looked after? What are Ubers plans for the future?
Uber’s endgame is a driver team entirely composed of robots. The company is at the forefront of discussions of the legal and logistical implications of self-driving cars, because if the company can cut out the cost of the driver, it can offer cheaper rides and earn more profits. The company is currently agnostic about the makeup of its workforce because it doesn’t foresee having one for much longer.
So this makes me wonder. Is the gig economy just an intermediate step in the progression toward a fully automated robotic workforce? And if it is, is there anything we can do to stop it?