When new technologies break onto the scene and become widely used, new doors open in terms of how we live, play, and work. Today, we have apps, smart phones, better network connectivity, and other communication and computing innovations that give the average user so many more opportunities, whether it’s the chance to find their way to a destination without error, order event tickets with their phones, or simply make a few extra bucks.
It’s that last point that we’re focusing on here; new services like Uber are in the middle of redefining how we work, and like any new territory, it has its share of bonanzas and pitfalls. So how exactly is Uber changing our working world?
Uber: A Primer
Just in case you haven’t heard much (if anything) about what Uber is, let’s recap. Uber is a transportation company that employs an in-house designed app for customers to request a car ride. These rides are provided by drivers who use their own cars and set their own hours and availability.
It’s not a taxi service. A would-be passenger uses the app to call for a ride, and an Uber driver is called to meet the passenger, and pick them up. It’s a cashless transaction, with the cost of the ride coming from the passenger’s bank card, and you don’t even have to tip.
So basically, all a customer needs is the Uber app and a smart phone. All an Uber driver needs is to have an insured, later model 4-door car in good shape, valid license, smart phone, and finally, pass a background check and make it through the interview.
How It Helps The Employee
The cool thing about working for Uber seems to be that you can make your own hours. Theoretically, the more you work, the more you can make, but if you want to scale back and take it easy, well, you can do that to.
The Uber business model allows people to take control of their workload and call the shots. That’s an unprecedented amount of flexibility.
A Model For Future Businesses?
One of the most attractive aspects of Uber is the way it cuts through all of the baloney and quickly pairs up someone who needs a ride with an available driver. The Uber driver is exercising the ultimate BYOD, since they use their own car and phone, as opposed to having one issued to them by the company, and that in turn saves the business a lot of overhead.
When you get right down to it, it’s a simple exercise in finding a need and providing the solution. A company like Uber, it can be argued, is like a micro-sized temp agency. But now, pause and consider this: people need more than just a ride cross-town.
As the article “Will Our Uberized Culture Change The Way We Work?” points out, Uber categorizes its drivers as contractors, not employees. That results in a lot of changes in terms of employee benefits, tax classifications, and insurance requirements, many of them favoring the host company. With that in mind, are there other businesses and industries that could conceivably adopt the Uber business model?
What if there was a company out there called WyrdSmyth, that hooked up freelance writers with clients who were under the gun and needed some content done ASAP? Hey, sometimes a writer drops the ball and misses a deadline, much to the detriment of the client, who still needs that piece written by end of day.
Or perhaps we could start up BratMinder, because there’s a harried parent who really needs a reliable baby-sitter for the next four hours because something urgent has just come up. You could see a service where a local, qualified and vetted baby-sitter is dispatched post haste.
If you think about it, the possibilities are endless. Any industry that provides a service to clients could conceivably adopt the Uber business model, limited only by supply, demand, and availability.
It’s Not All Hearts And Flowers
Taxi and limousine companies aren’t exactly thrilled with this new, application-based, personal transportation industry. It’s more competition, and it can hurt the industry by reducing customer share across the board, requiring drivers to work longer hours in order to make a decent living.
Then there’s the whole matter of labor laws, employee rights, and other legal issues which will certainly figure increasingly as the business model is adopted by more businesses. This is new ground, and there’s certain to be some missteps and inequities.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be fascinating to watch how it all unfolds. Uber and its competitors are here to stay, and doing well enough that the model could very well be adopted by other service industries sooner rather than later. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you happen to use Uber, here’s a chance to save some money.