Getting the Gig: Remote Workers and the Gig Economy

By Caleece Nash and Dr. Mohammad Jarrahi, University of North Carolina

The gig economy has become an integrated part of many individuals, whether it is through accepting gigs or hiring a gig worker for a particular project. Companies like Uber and TaskRabbit have revolutionized the gig economy by making it easier than ever for gig workers to find work. By providing flexible, on-demand jobs, companies are able to eliminate health insurance costs, physical office spaces, and other expensive resources usually given to full-time employees.

A growing sub population of gig-workers engage in what organization scientists call knowledge work since they are being paid for their knowledge in that particular service or product. Due to its nature, most forms of knowledge work can be perfumed virtually. This allows gig workers such as online freelancers to go location independent and work remotely for the client.   In order to work entirely remotely or on the move, gig workers must be able to create a product that can be sent digitally using only their accessible mobile resources and technologies. For that reason, many freelancers working on platforms like Upwork or Fivver can be considered “digital work,” a work that involves digital inputs and outputs. So we continue to witness a rising population of remote, digital gig workers who conduct location-independent knowledge work.

Because of increasing reliance on digital technologies, remote gig workers realize that “their ability to find work, communicate with others, and complete projects is dependent on their ability to access these technologies from coffee shops, coworking spaces, apartments or elsewhere, on demand” (Sutherland, Jarrahi 2018). Without the appropriate technologies and spaces, remote workers cannot share and create their services. For example, for a person who may need to take a video call will not only need access to strong Wi-Fi to maintain internet connection but also a professional environment that is quiet and can facilitate productive work.

It is impossible to deny trends in remote work are exponentially rising. Regardless of if you are a remote worker or not, it is important to know how to manage or collaborate with remote workers or embrace their technologies and practices. The gig economy and rapid advancements in technology have given these remote workers more flexibility and more location independence. As these work trends continue to become more extreme, it will only become more prevalent in society.

Sutherland, W. and Jarrahi, M.H. (2018) “The Gig Economy and Information Infrastructure: The Case of the Digital Nomad Community,” Proc. ACM Human-Computer. Interact. 1, Article 97 (January 2018).