Behavioral and Operational Lens into Managing Flexible Workforce

Park (Wichinpong) Sinchaisri, Operations, Information and Decisions, The Wharton School

Abstract: On-demand or gig economy has been growing dramatically in the past decade and is starting to become an everyday feature of modern society. Although independent contractors have been around for centuries, recent technologies allow workers to quickly connect with customers online and create new work arrangements. Especially during disruptions such as COVID-19, workers are seeking alternative work opportunities and firms are transforming to adopt remote and flexible work. Once a small minority of low-skilled workers with relatively low income, the gig economy now attracts high-skilled workers, from management consultants to physicians. Workers enjoy flexibility in choosing when and how they work, while customers enjoy faster services, often at a cheaper cost. This also means that on-demand platforms compete for not only customers but also a limited pool of workers as they can seamlessly switch between multiple platforms that offer different incentives. Understanding their preferences and behaviors is crucial for platforms to achieve successful operations. This proposal seeks to answer: (i) How do flexible workers make work decisions and adapt to the gig economy? (ii) How does the gig economy affect worker and customer behaviors? (ii) How can firms schedule their flexible workers and design incentives to recruit and retain them?