Then one day, Walker, a 19-year-old student at University College London, was scrolling through TikTok and stumbled on a video about an app called Stint. A face on the screen explained that Stint could help students earn money by working brief temporary stints at places like restaurants and bars that require little training or experience.
Walker downloaded the app, took a 15-minute intro course and days later snagged a job polishing cutlery at a Michelin-star restaurant in London — for one day. Between May and June, she took on several other gigs, squeezing them into her class schedule where she could.
“Everyone could do it,” Walker said.
Stint, in use across the U.K., has grown in popularity, alongside similar apps in the United States like Instaworks and Gigpro, as one response to the peculiar ways in which economies have been rebounding from the pandemic recession. Uncertainty about the durability of the recoveries and the tentative re-openings of businesses still threatened by the coronavirus have made flexibility a top priority — for workers and employees alike.
As the hospitality industry, in particular, confronts worker shortages, these apps are helping form an ultra-short-term worker-employee relationship, something that hasn’t widely existed in recent decades. Walker noted that even students with no relevant experience could sign up with one of these apps and likely find paid work — as brief as a couple of hours — that fits their schedule from week to week.
In contrast to Stint, Instaworks and Gigpro are suited more for skilled or experienced workers who want or need short-term shifts. Collectively, the newer apps represent a variation on the many gig apps that sprang up in recent years — from Uber and DoorDash to TaskRabbit and Thumbtack — that typically serve households in need of a one-time service. What distinguishes the latest apps is that they link workers with employers that have a steady need for labor but don’t necessarily want to commit to permanent hires given the uncertainties from the pandemic.
“It’s no surprise that during COVID, when everything became virtual that these ... marketplaces might have exploded,” said Fiona Greig, co-president of the JPMorgan Chase Institute, a global financial thinktank, whose research expertise includes the online platform economy.
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