Platform work: Social environment

06 september 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.

Social environment

Social environment refers to the interpersonal relationships an individual worker may have with their organisation, clients and other workers. These professional and personal relationships can have a substantial impact on well-being and constitute an important factor in how people experience their working lives.

Social environment of platform workers

There is generally a limited relationship between the worker and the platform, which is sometimes experienced as positive when relating to work autonomy, and at other times considered problematic when a need emerges to resolve issues or conflicts.

As platform work is not tied to one specific location and for the most part takes place in non-continuous work relationships, or even without face to face interaction, platform workers may be at risk of social and professional isolation. In particular online platform workers, but also on-location workers can have a low level of social interaction with other workers, resulting in social isolation. Professional isolation can occur when platform workers, even when working for a client that is a company or organisation, are not integrated in the organisation and work on separate tasks without taking part in the overall work process.

Potential community-building in on-location platform determined work versus no contacts among online platform workers

Eurofound identified 10 different types of platform work prevalent in Europe as of 2017. Five 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.
  • Online moderately skilled click-work covers work that is delivered online via a platform and is of very low scale (that is, tasks can often be completed within seconds or minutes). This type of platform work is often used by companies to outsource automation tasks that require a human interaction, such as classifying a picture or categorising a product.
  • On-location client-determined moderately skilled work covers low to medium skilled on-location work that is selected by the client by means of an offer. It mostly takes the form of household tasks conducted by professionals to earn additional income or to occupy spare time.

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

Online moderately skilled click-work On-location client-determined moderately skilled work




99 Designs

Amazon Mechanical Turk Oferia

Social environment overall

Social environment: relationship worker and platform

Social environment: relationship worker and client

Social environment: relationship worker and other workers

Source: Eurofound (2018; 2019)

Of the five analysed types of platform work, workers doing on-location platform-determined tasks are the most dependent on the platform and therefore have the closest relationship with it. Also in terms of ‘community building’ among platform workers, on-location platform-determined workers may form strong relationships with each other, offering each other assistance, advice, support and even come together to make common cause, for example in protesting or negotiating their working conditions with the platform.

In contrast, worker-initiated, client-determined and online platform workers do not typically have strong relationships with platform representatives, clients or other workers. The limited contact with client can cause problems when requirements are not properly clarified.

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