Check it out what you will find on this article about ghost work:
- But, Isn’t Ghost Work Just Another Name for Freelancing?
- Why Ghost Work is Actually a Good Thing
- The Many Problems Facing Ghost Workers
- How to Manage Ghost Work
- Shedding The Indifference
While it may seem like the title of Tom Clancy’s latest novel, ghost work is single handedly powering the digital economy as scores of nameless professionals are providing services behind the scenes of many enterprises.
Ghost work is what anthropologist Mary L Gray calls the invisible labor that power technology platform. Mary coined the term in her book of the same name and is referring to a new class of underworkers who labor for tech organizations, often without any acknowledgement. They also have to tolerate poor pay scales and no benefits.
For example, we all use Voice Assistants in our phones to make queries all the time. However, these systems require a lot of data to be classified and cleaned constantly. Filling out data fields, labelling it and updating new information is all carried out by scores of manual workers. As it would seem, the internet has its own sweatshops.
But, Isn’t Ghost Work Just Another Name for Freelancing?
Yes and no. Most of the time, ghost work includes jobs such as data entry, filling out surveys, translation, web research etc. While freelancers can do ghost work, not all of them will choose to. Freelancing can include both credited and uncredited work.
Ghost work in modern vernacular on the other hand falls in a grey area where the worker is uncredited for his/her work, but is sometimes also not compensated properly for it. Some types of jobs can only be “ghosted” too. For instance, data entry jobs or manual labelling will be hard to credit to a certain person.
That’s not to say that “ghosting” is always a bad idea. Some of the most famous novels and autobiographies were written by ghostwriters. However, in such cases the writers are always well compensated and can showcase their work (with the client’s permission) to prospects.
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Why Ghost Work is Actually a Good Thing
At the face of it, ghost working seems like a bad idea. However, the core issue here is how ghost jobs are being handled, not the work itself. There are plenty of jobs that a company can outsource to people located away from their immediate vicinity and save up by not having to hire and train full time staff.
A company no longer has to invest in costly infrastructure, need to pay only for productive tasks and can quickly find the right match for their organization by testing multiple candidates at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. Such a model is especially useful for startups which are always at a financial disadvantage.
It pays well for the worker too as they are not tied to any one company, can set their own hours and use whatever equipment they are comfortable working on. Commuting is also no longer an issue and people can earn as much or as little as they want. The modern gig economy is thriving precisely because the end result is better collaboration between employers and workers all over the globe.
The Many Problems Facing Ghost Workers
Know that workers in the gig economy are well aware of the drawbacks of their style of work. The idea of a contingent workforce is setting an unhealthy precedent where companies classify their ghost workers as independent contractors, thereby denying them the same salaries and benefits that regular employees will command.
This in turn affects the job-security of the worker and can encourage exploitation. It’s all too common to see ghost workers and freelancers complete their work, then either wait endlessly for their invoices to be paid or worse, not receive anything at all because the company they were working with was acquired or had a change of management. Sure, they can sign digital agreements, but how does an overseas worker litigate against a breach of contract in another country? Clearly, the playing-field is tipped in the employer’s favor.
Since the gig-economy is still in its infancy, many such barriers will need to be negotiated before an equitable association between employers and employees can be established. So, what can your company do to integrate ghost work into its operations without any of the aforementioned drawbacks?
For starters, consider understanding the priorities, expectations and challenges of ghost workers. Chances are they are looking for well paying jobs and are worried their existing job may end at any time, or may not result in another.
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How to Manage Ghost Work
It may sound hard to believe but you can use the above mentioned situation to your advantage. Remember, the problem isn’t ghost work, it’s how it’s being implemented. If your competitors are unwilling to make an earnest attempt to value workers, then you can shoot ahead of them by offering a better experience and fair compensation. In doing so, you can attract high quality workers to your organization. Consider the following when onboarding ghost workers:
Offer fair compensation
Oftentimes ghost work involves menial tasks that may not offer much intrinsic value. Since you will no doubt be saving by opting for gig or overseas workers, consider spending a little more on salaries. It’s well known that the cost of a bad hire is quite high, and this applies to the gig economy as well. If ghost workers are paid low, they will have to take on multiple jobs to make ends meet. This in turn will cause them to rush through tasks and they will inevitably burn out fast, affecting their productivity and increasing error-rates. A better way will be to secure the loyalty of a few, select ghost workers by offering them competitive salaries and perks.
Have a ghost work specific onboarding process
Simply hoping on Freelancer or Fiverr and going with the first few options may not work out well in the long run. Besides interviewing and cross referencing, consider connecting your ghost workers to others in your office. This will help them feel valued and they won’t hesitate when asking for help when stuck. Also, consider sharing all the documents they could need with them. Style guides, FAQs, articles and blog posts are great ways to share your knowledge with your ghost team.
Create the right digital environment
While independent workers do prefer to use their own tools, bringing many together will require you to provide them with a solution for want of a simplified workflow. Fortunately, cloud based productivity tools allow you to collaborate with team members regardless of wherever they may be located.
RunRun.it for example has a full suite of tools and features that lets managers track time spent on each task while giving them a quick snapshot of the full picture via an intuitive dashboard. Projects can be discussed and altered as needed and your team members can be guided on how to improve their performance right on the task itself.
When dealing with ghost work, your primary concern is anonymity. The whole process appears opaque which can cause distrust to fester. To ensure this never happens, ask your team members to question freely. The better they understand your business, the more well guided their efforts will be. They will also be less prone to making mistakes and getting it right on the first go.
Of course, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Process automation allows you to put as much on autopilot as possible without sacrificing quality.
Shedding The Indifference
Internet has without a doubt created more opportunities than we could have ever imagined. But, the bane of working with someone behind a computer screen is that impassivity inevitably creeps in. Paradoxically, the more connected we are becoming, the more isolated our relationships seem to be getting. Tasks assigned as ghost work may seem trivial in the grand scheme of a company’s ambitions, but it’s survival depends upon its successful completion, too. Constantly reminding ourselves that the people we are working with online are just as real as the ones next to us is going to be key to making the digital-economy work.
Here at RunRun.it, we are always looking for ever more interesting and efficient ways to connect teams and power collaboration between them. RunRun.it comes packed with features that allow you to assign, manage and track your tasks from any location securely. Don’t take our word for it. Feel free to sign up and give the free trial a whirl. Also, feel free to send over any questions you may have. We are always happy to help!