Platform work: Work intensity and working time quality

06 Settembre 2018

Platform work is a form of employment that uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals to access other organisations or individuals to solve problems or to provide services in exchange for payment.

Work intensity and working time quality

Work intensity refers to the effort and strain associated with carrying out the work. Organisation of working time refers to how the worker, platform and client manage the worker’s time. Both work intensity and the organisation of working time influence workers’ work–life balance.

Work intensity and working time quality for platform workers

Generally, platform workers have variable levels of control over the intensity of their work and the organisation of their working time. Some types of platform work see much competition between workers and there may be sharp falls and peaks in demand. Furthermore, some forms of platform work are characterised by their international nature and may take place across different time zones. In such cases, demand may be higher at unsocial hours, which may impact workers’ work-life balance. Furthermore, tasks can be bound to a short-term deadline, which can confer a lot of stress on workers. Platform work can also encourage high-intensity work at a rapid pace without breaks.

High work intensity and low working time quality in platform work: different reasons in different types of platform work

Eurofound identified 10 different types of platform work prevalent in Europe as of 2017. Three of these types have been analysed in more detail as regards their working conditions.

  • On-location platform-determined routine work covers low-skilled work that is delivered in person and assigned to the worker by the platform. This type of platform work is fairly widespread as regards both workers and platforms.
  • On-location worker-initiated moderately skilled work covers low- to medium-skilled work where tasks are selected and delivered on-location by the worker. The ability to choose their own assignments provides these workers with flexibility, which is considered a major benefit of platform work.
  • Online contestant specialist work is high-skilled online work where the client selects the worker by means of a contest. Workers performing this type of platform work must prove their skills by carrying out part or all of a task before knowing whether they will be selected as winners and paid. This type of platform work is especially prevalent for creative tasks.

Comparative overview of selected characteristics of working conditions by type of platform work

 

On-location platform-determined work

On-location worker-initiated work

Online contestant work

Example

Deliveroo

ListMinut

99 Designs

Work intensity and working time quality

When differentiating by platform work type, it becomes clear that in particular for on-location platform-determined workers, algorithmically assigned tasks can impact their work-life balance. Notably, workers whose main income derives from platform-determined work might be faced with long and unsocial working hours. Additionally, high work intensity and limited breaks can be triggered by pay-by-task schemes.

Worker-initiated tasks may induce higher work intensity in cases where clients understate the scale or complexity of tasks. Unfavourable work schedules can be caused by demands of the clients; however, this is not different than for professionals and self-employed in the traditional economy.

For contestant work, tight deadlines can result in high work intensity. Compared to the traditional economy, anecdotal evidence hints towards shorter deadlines in platform work for some tasks.

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