Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi, Associate Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded funding from the NC Policy Collaboratory for a project that will document the impact of COVID-19 on gig workers and their ability to work independently.
The project aims to examine how the skills used for location-based gig work can translate into the skills needed for online digital work and to develop educational materials that can help workers make the transition. The project’s findings will also help identify the necessary design features for digital platforms that could help facilitate the process.
The NC Policy Collaboratory grant will support the research and provide funding for graduate students who will assist with data collection and analysis.
The social and professional upheavals caused by COVID-19 have reduced or eliminated many location-based gig work options. For instance, clients of dog walking companies are now staying home and no longer need the service. As a result, some gig workers are switching to location-independent work, such as remote online freelancing and paid crowdsourcing.
“While these workers might already be familiar with gig work and digital labor platforms, the dynamics of location-independent digital labor can still be different and overwhelming,” Jarrahi said. “Instead of meeting local clients in person, workers must learn to distinguish themselves in a global market through remote communication, using online tools.”
Jarrahi said the project connects to more extensive work he has conducted on gig literacies and the design of systems to enable rural adults to join the gig market and start making a new living.