While it may seem as though we've been talking about it for a while, the sharing economy is just getting started. Though companies like Airbnb and Lyft have hit some regulation roadblocks in different states, their momentum hasn't really slowed. A new type of freelance worker is taking advantage of all that these communities have to offer. Suddenly, thanks to the sharing economy, self-employment seems sustainable for a stay-at-home mom who can rent out her home when out of town or a part-time student who can drive his car around as a taxi. As many folks now utilize their assets and skills to make an income, the question remains: how do companies manage these mobile workers?
As with most important questions, there's no sure answer. Beyond all of the red tape companies have to manage on a daily basis, they also have to maintain a working relationship with "employees" they may never meet. As such, their best workers are those with formidable skills, rather than a traditional resume.
"It's a new industry," Lyft's cofounder Jon Zimmer recently told Motherboard. "We're doing our best to be proactive, but there are going to be various challenges along the way."
Here are three ways companies can manage a growing network of freelance workers:
Interactive Technology Is Key
This is fair advice when employees come into the office Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, but becomes even more important when they don't. In fact, sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb generally employ a large team to manage these folks (which, I suppose, could be another post in and of itself). One thing is true for all of these companies, though: they use technology as the backbone of management, with platforms and apps that are user friendly for both consumer and employee. Uber actually issues its drivers smartphones in order to ensure that all of its drivers are on the same platform.
Always Account for Taxes
Because these companies are online-based, renters, drivers, and other sharing economy workers are operating out of different states — all with different tax laws. As such, it's important for these companies and its workers to understand the law around their services as it applies to the state in which they are working. Airbnb and Lyft, for example, have explanations of how taxes work on their sites, but an FAQ may not be enough. These companies would do well to ensure all workers understand these tax implications from the beginning, not just when April 15 rolls around.
Transparency Takes Priority
While there are some great things about the sharing economy, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. Learning from mistakes and spelling out the service to workers from the start helps mitigate future issues. Task sharing company TaskRabbit, for example, is straightforward about the fact that it is simply the connector between the consumer and the service in its Terms of Service.
"The Service is only a venue for connecting Users," it reads. "Company expressly disclaims any liability that may arise between Users of its Service." While it may seem like a legal cop out, it's important to know that Taskers are simply using the site to get odd-job work, not working directly for TaskRabbit, though TaskRabbit takes a service fee for connecting the user with the worker.
Needless to say, these suggestions merely scratch the surface, but as the sharing economy takes off, companies employing many freelance or mobile workers should take advantage of technology and communication to ensure happy customers as well as workers.
Photo: Can Stock