Workplace platforms present new ways of working

January 9, 2018

The way many businesses and individual workers access work is undergoing change in the digital era. One such example is with platform business models, which cover both contracts and labor markets.

There are different forms of workplace platforms. There are those which are open to crowds (so-termed ‘crowdworking platforms’) and those based on flexible forms of employment, such as on-call work or on-demand employment.

These platforms signal a change to work in the digital era, with the rise of networks replacing traditional workplace hierarchies for a range of services. We look at three examples, each of which has been disruptive for traditional business models.

A man using his laptop PC

Global marketplaceWith many crowdworking platforms, these two-sided market arrangements often operate internationally, with the work or task (‘gigs’) offered subject to competitive bidding. This may be simple, in that the lower bidder wins, or other, additional criteria may be used to select the winner, such as a quality measure.An example of a crowdworking platform is Amazon Mechanical Turk

, which offers a globalized marketplace for different tasks. Unlike the all-encompassing business contracts of the past, many of the items through crowdworking platforms are often fragmented, providing elements of an overall project.With Amazon Mechanical Turk, this sets out to enable individuals and businesses (‘Requesters’) to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that computers are currently unable to do. The platform is one of the sites of Amazon Web Services, and is owned by Amazon.

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FreelancersOther crowdworking platforms are more circumspect in terms of who can bid for a contract in that the freelance clientele need to be certified by the platform in advance. This is the case where those bidding are supposed to have some form of professional qualification. The site may standardize the rate or the freelancer may be able to set their own hourly rate. An example of this is The Work Crowd

, which connects companies with the freelance experts and consultants in the fields of marketing, communications and public relations.This second example allows for the use of a greater range of digital technologies like geolocation, smartphone applications and web platforms.

How do you feel about someone delivering your groceries while you re at work?

ServicesAnother form of crowdworking is with material services, such as transport, accommodation, food deliveries, housekeeping and so on. Within this there are two models: rates set by the platform, such as Deliveroo’s food service; or where the service is a product of supply and demand, as with TaskRabbit, for home and garden improvement works.Many of the forms of work in this third category are not digital in themselves but they are managed by digital platforms.Taken together, crowdworking platforms signal a change to the way work is structured in the digital age.


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