Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work
The concept of “the digital divide” originated in the 1990s and has over the years had multiple definitions. The most common understanding in 2018 is that it is the gap between those who have access to high-speed Internet and those who do not. The term, though, has for many years also included the gap between those who have technological literacy, competence, and experience and those who do not. This gap can be traced to a number of factors including socioeconomic and geographical issues, education and receptivity to technological issues.
Nowhere is this gap more evident than in reading Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work by Sarah Kessler. Technologically well-versed individuals (mostly Millennials and Generation Z) will find the book interesting and informative. Those who for whatever reason are minimally cognizant about technology will likely find it difficult to read. The subtitle of the book—The End of the Job and the Future of Work—may well be more representative of the book’s content than the title for this latter group.
The term gigged does not refer to a performance by a jazz or rock musician, any job (e.g. a teaching gig out West), or a gigabyte (a computer unit of information equal to one billion bytes.) As discussed by the author, gigged refers to The Gig Economy, seen first in Silicon Valley but now nationwide and operating in many fields of employment.
The more traditional definition of a job—a nine to five position with stability, predictability, longevity and fringe benefits—is rapidly fading. Whereas companies in the past would hire full time employees, they now often utilize independent contractors with defined skills to perform specific, isolated tasks for a set period of time. The contractor often works alone, has considerable flexibility in when and how he/she works and can accept or decline any gigs that come their way.
They cannot expect much consideration from an employer except a monetary fee for completion of the task with no guarantee of future work. A career becomes a potpourri of temporary projects and assignments assembled by the contractor using online services and computer apps. This is a profound change in work life and structure.
The author describes the onset, initial rapid growth and ultimate obstacles associated with this new form of work. She describes the Good (flexibility, the possibility of a positive work life balance and the advantages of working for oneself.) She also openly describes the Bad and the Ugly (the unpredictability of receiving projects, the lack of benefits such as health care and paid personal leave and the inability to impact management.)
The first and most well-known company to reformulate its worker structure from “employees” to independent contractors was Uber the ride hailing company. With Uber’s meteoric rise, there have been many startups that follow its methodology. They often are informally labeled as “ The Uber of X” where X can be janitorial services, temp workers, food delivery, or financial professionals, just to name a few.
The book’s format is to describe in detail the experiences of various real life individuals as they enter and participate in the gig economy. These individuals may be disenchanted with an inflexible schedule, find company management problematic, or wish for increased control over their work life without taking on the responsibility of building a new company.
The individuals described are young males, single parents, housewives, and future entrepreneurs. Ms. Kessler tells stories of some who ultimately “make it big” with their flexibility, ideas and energy as well as those who barely eke out a living as gig economy workers.
Kessler knows her subject well having covered the gig economy as a senior writer at Fast Company and managed startup coverage at Mashable. It is a book presumably written by a Millennial author for Millennial and Gen Z readers who will find it relevant and interesting. Novice tech readers may be challenged by the book’s dive into personal and corporate technology issues and will likely find it dense. Technology companies and startups such as Mechanical Turk, Deliveroo, UpWork, GIN and Managed by Q will be entities outside of their knowledge base. Many such readers would probably not read the book, but it might make a good gift to a tech savvy 20 or 30 year old.