Exploring the Future of Work(places): CSCW 2019 Workshop Summary

Julie Hui
Julie Hui
Nov 19, 2019 · 5 min read

Participants from left to right: Mark Whiting, Kutub Gandhi, Nandini Sharma, Ning F. Ma, David Lee, Veronica Rivera, Eureka Foong, Justin Cranshaw, Chinmay Kulkarni, Liz Gerber, David Bloom, Sanna Ali, Laton Vermette, Julie Hui, Ahreum Lee, Yasmine Kotturi, Yun Huang (not pictured)

What if on-demand workers could get paid to learn? What if gig work companies could be incentivized to improve working conditions? Participants form the CSCW 2019 Future of Work(places) Workshop spent a day exploring these questions and more. Our intention in posting these workshop topics and ideas is to spark discussion and share the workshop outcomes with those who could not attend. Please keep in mind that these ideas are in very early stages and meant to be an exploration rather than finished product. We hope these short descriptions of the projects spark further work around the future of workplaces and how they can be designed to better support workers.

Aligning Institutions with Communities: What if companies could be incentivized to take care of precarious workers?

By: Sanna Ali, Eureka Foong, David Lee, Nandini Sharma, Mark Whiting

What could the future of work look like if we were to design it? We were struck by the case of day laborers lining up outside of Home Depot to secure work for themselves every day. What if all companies precariously employed contract workers in the same way? What would need to change about existing institutions so that the needs of these workers are supported? This societal challenge has received piecemeal solutions, that don’t resolve the broader underlying issues. However, societal solutions require aligning incentives across multiple ecosystems and stakeholders at many levels. We ask, how might we design mechanisms that radically align institutions and economies with the individuals’ motivations and human values? We focus on three vignettes of misalignment: companies’ pursuit of profits that may be at odds with support for more distant stakeholders (e.g., employees, and impacted communities); workers’ current job opportunities and skill sets and their aspirational careers; and municipalities who prioritize big business contracts above the interests of their constituents (see Table 1).

Table 1. Proposed approaches to resolving misalignments between institutions and individual values in the future of work.

What if on-demand workers could be paid to learn?

By Ning F. Ma, Yun Huang, Chinmay Kulkarni, Veronica Rivera, Kutub Gandhi

For people performing digital piece work, learning and work are usually in conflict — for example, online crowdworkers, people who can’t access formal education all forego an opportunity to engage in paying work when they take time to learn a new skill. Our group questions this status-quo. Instead of learning being an expensive opportunity, we consider how to create social incentives for learning. We envision a new kind of co-working space that supports people in learning and sharing knowledge by paying them. People pay to join the space and receive a discount on the price they pay if they learn something and then help teach that skill to others in the space. We propose TWO studies: first a study of barriers people face while learning today, and second, a feasibility study for a prototype of this space, informed by the results of the first study.

What if co-working spaces could be optimized for camaraderie?

by Ahreum Lee, Allie Blaising, David Bloom, Laton Vermette, and Yasmine Kotturi

Our group was formed by a desire to facilitate social support among on-demand workers. This was a fairly wide net, and we therefore used the guiding questions of the workshop in order to constrain the design space for the types of interventions we imagined in later stages. In particular, we reflected on the guiding question: how might physical spaces augment on-demand work? We reflected on the affordances of physical spaces which might facilitate social support among on-demand workers such as: Serendipitous interactions, Watering hole effect, Congregation, Heterophily, Shared context, common language, Collective identity, Ability to self-organize, Easy access to people to share/get resources/information. With this in mind, we derived our groups challenge for the day: How might we leverage physical space to build an ongoing/long-term sense of camaraderie among on-demand workers to get them the help they do not know how to, or who to ask for? Or do not have the energy to ask for? How might we foster serendipitous encounters, which come more readily in physical space, to build a long-term sense of camaraderie among new on-demand workers?

We identified current approaches to provide social support and facilitate help-seeking among on-demand workers often rely on online forums and online communities to disseminate information. While these information sources are helpful, we discussed how in order the burden falls on the worker in order to find them, and use them (formulate and post a question). Given the benefits of physical space, we imagined we could offload this worker burden into the physical space. We imagined an on-boarding experience for those interested in on-demand work which doubles as a cohort building experience. As a first step, we created a flyer that could be the first step to encourage the interaction between people in a physical space who have concerns about their career as an on-demand worker and are looking for advice from people who have had a similar experience, as a way to engage in the community and advance their skills and well-being.

What if an app could increase pay and pay transparency on gig work platforms?

By Justin Cranshaw, Julie Hui, Liz Gerber

Rideshare drivers support a city’s economic activity by transporting people from homes to businesses to restaurants and more. Yet, drivers’ pay can fall short of a living wage, and customers are unaware of how much of what they pay for a ride ends up going to the driver. How might we design a new socio-technical system to increase pay for drivers and increase transparency towards platform practices?

We brainstormed an idea for a fictional new third party app. The vision is that the customer can easily see the difference between how much a worker is being paid and the city’s living wage, and possibly give them an increased tip to help close the gap. This idea was inspired by the Alia platform created to make it easier for house cleaners to collect and manage benefits contributions from clients. The proposed app can improve pay for drivers and gig workers by creating social connection to a) increase tipping, b) demonstrate how tips will close the gap, and c) potentially provide opportunities to exchange other resources such as professional introductions and educational advising. The app would work with any in-person on-demand service platform. This allows tips to flow directly between the worker and client outside of the on-demand platform, and provides financial transparency such as the amount withheld from the platform and any itemized overhead costs they incur related to the transaction that reduces pay.

Workshop page: https://cscw2019-futureofworkplaces.com/


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