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Flexibility is driving work forward

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“Going to work” looks different now than it did two years ago. Amid a pandemic that has altered more than 600,000 businesses, we have had no choice but to evolve the way we work. Today’s work takes place at home, at a coffee shop, or in a car. We’ve reached a watershed moment that’s empowering people to rethink what they want from their work, and it’s increasingly clear that they want their future to be flexible. 

It’s no wonder so many Americans are turning to app-based platforms. More than 52 million have chosen to drive, shop and deliver on their own time, opting to build work around their lives and not the other way around. It’s not full-time work for most. Nationally, app-based workers average eight hours per week and often use multiple platforms. 

I’ve spoken with an array of people shopping, driving and delivering to learn more about why they choose flex work. When asked, they overwhelmingly point to flexibility. “I need to be on my own schedule,” said one mom, whose child with autism requires her undivided attention at unpredictable hours. But beyond flexibility, flex work is helping people reach their specific goals and milestones. One worker I met saved up for an apartment within a month of delivering; others have rapidly paid down student loans. 

Flex work is having a cultural impact, too. You might be surprised to hear how many workers expressed how much they love “helping people who can’t leave the house,” or “learning from all walks of life,” and are motivated by the tangible interaction they get to have with their own communities. We need to make sure that these people are empowered to continue driving our economy forward. And what’s best for them is not one-size-fits-all. 

Flex work is inherently different from traditional employment. It’s an entrepreneurial opportunity facilitated by technology platforms that connect individuals seeking a service to those seeking to provide it. App-based platforms such as rideshare and delivery services provide two-way marketplaces that help enterprising entrepreneurs connect to clients who need their services. Workers and companies both stand to succeed when more transactions are completed in an app-based economy.

More importantly, workers themselves overwhelmingly choose flexibility over traditional employment; 82 percent would rather work as independent contractors than as employees so that they can control their time, schedules and income levels. 

The conversation we should be having is about finding a new way that aligns with and acknowledges the unique role flex workers play in today’s economy and the things they say they value most, not trying to shoehorn them into an old style of work. We ultimately should be working toward custom solutions that support the needs of drivers.

Innovations are driving change every day. Cable TV used to restrict what you could watch and when; today, streaming platforms allow viewers to make their own decisions and watch on their own time. Similarly, payment apps have digitized the way we pay, and buying a car no longer requires a trip to the dealership thanks to online marketplaces. 

The past few years have shown us that digital tools can revolutionize our work options, too. Rideshare and delivery platforms are a critical cornerstone of an evolving economy, giving consumers access to goods and services on demand, while providing flexible work to those who choose it.  

One-size-fits-all models don’t accurately reflect how more and more people are choosing to work today. Put simply, the app-based work of today fundamentally shouldn’t be compromised by an old employment system. It’s time for policymakers to embrace this welcome change and support the workers who are driving our economy forward.

Kristin Sharp is the CEO of Flex, the voice of the app-based economy, whose founding member companies include DoorDash, Grubhub, Gopuff, HopSkipDrive, Instacart, Lyft, Shipt and Uber.

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