Thursday, 22 February 2018

Australian Residency: Pizza Delivery Guys

My residency provided me with another glamorous sketching opportunity at the end of last week. It involved me spending an evening squatting on the pavement...

The Centre for Transformative Work Design researchers wanted to talk to people who work in the ‘gig economy’. It wasn’t a term I was familiar with, but it means people who do jobs like delivering your pizza: one ‘gig’ at a time.

Since Friday night is a peak time for fast-food deliveries (yep, we’ve all been there…), that was when we set off, in search of the places where the delivery guys hang out (and for some reason they are mostly guys). They congregate around certain restaurants, waiting for a job to come in for them, via an app on their phone. 

We wandered about the city centre, until we found a couple of Uber Eats bikers, sitting on the pavement in a doorway. Would they speak to us? Would they mind being sketched?

They were a bit non-plussed, which was fair enough – it is all rather odd. Once they got into it though, they were great and told us lots of unexpected and interesting things. 

I’m guessing that, like me, most people would think theirs was a pretty rubbish job. They get paid extremely badly; there is a lot of waiting around and ‘wasted’ time; they always work when the rest of us are relaxing. Yet one man scored his job as 9 out of 10, while two others scored it at 7.

So why? What’s the up-side? Well, one key thing seemed to be that they can fit the work around their needs: many are foreign students, who need funds to live, but still need time to study and attend lectures. They liked the fact that they can decide moment-by-moment whether they want to work or not: total flexibility.

Another man said that the best things were that the job had really improved his confidence, taught him how to be punctual and how to handle pressure: quite a positive spin on a high-stress situation! 

It felt like an individual’s personality was definitely a factor, as one man said the waiting around was really boring, while another said he liked the down-time, waiting for jobs, because it gave him the chance to make friends with other drivers and to practise his English.

There were definitely negatives though, not least that it can be pretty dangerous, rushing around in traffic. They do sometimes have accidents. It was also REALLY noisy where the workers needed to wait - I wrote a list of noises along the bottom of the motorbike sketch. It was all so loud that I couldn’t hear the interview well enough to add the quotes at the time: the researchers recorded everything, then I added the worker’s comments earlier this week.

It is certainly proving interesting and I'm getting to be such a wide range of people.


marctaro said...

Wow, this project just keeps getting better. What a great documentary. Are you going to lecture on this one at Porto maybe?

Susan Cornelis said...

Oh Lynne, I would love to do what you're doing, combining sketching with social research is such a dynamic use of your skills. Thanks for sharing it here. Looking forward to seeing you in Porto?!