Does the Gig Economy Work for Software Development?

gig economy min
In the new era of work dynamics, the gig economy plays a major role. We have seen Uber and other ride-sharing apps disrupt the taxi industry. In the IT industry, gig workers are becoming a sizable group, especially as a by-product of the work-from-home culture induced by the pandemic.
However, unlike driving where the major factors are driving skills, car/driver availability, and geographical proximity, software development involves complex tasks and skills. Even when you break the required epics into stories and bite-sized tasks, there is an overall contextual continuity that one must maintain. It is not just start, stop, and redo. Each task is more like a bead in the necklace that one must weave bit by bit. The skills are more differentiated as well. It is not as simple as following a map. Here, one is actually making a map to follow. People with different skills will make the map quite differently.
When presented with the choice of beading as many necklaces simultaneously to maximize the payout, the ethical dilemma is obvious. The natural tendency will be to take on as many gigs as possible. Why? Because the whole concept of this gig economy is to make as much as possible with as much freedom as possible. It is not possible to drive two cars at once, but it is possible to work on four gigs at once while working from home. The outcome is obvious. This super gig worker is producing 160-hours of work in a 40-hour work week and the quality will suffer.
Software engineering is still a skilled discipline that is the result of hours/days/weeks/months of learning cycles. In practice, this skill needs focus, dedication, and a sense of commitment to accomplish the objective(s) elegantly. While some tasks can be done in the gig manner, the overall context switching of the gig method does not work in this field.

Where gig economy can work

Where gig economy splutters

In my opinion, the gig economy works superbly for jobs like graphic designing, writing, and driving, but not for high quality software development, which is the collective effort of skilled programmers, software solution architects and software designers. In my next article, I will be delving into the challenges of gig economy for software programmers in particular.