As our society embraces social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19, we’ve looked to our heroes, some old and some new, to help maintain a sense of normalcy. Among those unsung heroes are the workers in the on-demand economy: our delivery drivers, warehouse workers, dog walkers, and ride-share drivers, who are shouldering the burden of an economy that’s otherwise grinding to a halt.
The on-demand economy, closely related to the gig economy, refers to the technologies that enable the immediate satisfaction of consumer demand, like Amazon Prime, Uber, and Instacart.
These workers are not just keeping our economy going, though. As a society, we’re outsourcing our risk of infection to on-demand gig workers, so that the majority of us can continue living normally despite our mandated isolation. As a result, we are inadvertently putting them at higher risk and many are forced to ask themselves, “should I stay home, or get paid?”
The new economic dynamic
From my time as Chief Revenue Officer at Snagajob, to my current role as General Manager at RapidSOS, I’ve come to deeply appreciate and respect the sacrifices our heroes make every day. Many of these folks are embracing the hustle, rising to the occasion to keep up with demand. For what it’s worth, Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers to keep up with the demand, and their fellow on-demand economy services are following suit.
Some of them may have been laid off from the restaurants, small businesses, and other industries affected by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, and are looking for a new form of income while the dust settles. Others have been at this for a while – driving Ubers or delivering groceries and packages – and are picking up the pace as they’re needed.
Whatever their background is, their fulfillment of essential services represents a new paradigm in our economy, one that will have lasting effects for the years to come. On-demand workers are the new blue collar workforce, getting their hands dirty to provide economic stability and continuity, especially in an uncertain time like this.
Much like we protect our first responders, construction workers, and sanitation engineers, it’s time we find ways to protect our gig workers as well.
Insulating our safety blanket
While hiring expands for on-demand services, it’s important for us to consider the health and wellness of the workers on whom our economy now relies. Since we’re offloading our risk, they need to be able to protect themselves. After all, if all of our on-demand workers get sick, we won’t just miss out on those Prime delivery deals – the economy as we know it will inevitably shut down.
When an Uber driver was diagnosed with coronavirus, the ramifications became all too real. Even though it’s easy for the average person to divorce themselves from the real world effects of the on-demand economy, especially as panic takes hold, this event forced many of us to reconsider the consequences of our ordering.
However, I think we can go even further. We’ve heard from our partners in 9-1-1 that they need more information about callers to help triage and allocate resources as coronavirus-related calls roll in.
That’s why we’re helping to connect apps and on-demand services to 9-1-1 so that when a driver, dog walker, or delivery person needs help, they’ll be able to get it faster than ever before. Their profile, location, and medical information will be sent along immediately to first responders so they know exactly what kind of help to send.
We’re also extending our hand to our public safety partners, focusing our engineering and customer success resources to ensure they can keep up with the need for help as this situation evolves.
The help doesn’t just have to come from us, though. The fact that our on-demand workers are willing to step up to the plate and work in spite of the risks isn’t just a consequence of this new economic reality. It’s a reminder of the strength and resilience of our society, that people from all walks of life are pitching in during a crisis. While the heroes on the front lines of healthcare and emergency response are working around the clock to treat patients, it’s the workers behind the scenes that are keeping things moving for the rest of us.