The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself To Death

from The New Yorker

Last September, a very twenty-first-century type of story appeared on the company blog of the ride-sharing app Lyft. “Long-time Lyft driver and mentor, Mary, was nine months pregnant when she picked up a passenger the night of July 21st,” the post began. “About a week away from her due date, Mary decided to drive for a few hours after a day of mentoring.” You can guess what happened next.

Mary, who was driving in Chicago, picked up a few riders, and then started having contractions. “Since she was still a week away from her due date,” Lyft wrote, “she assumed they were simply a false alarm and continued driving.” As the contractions continued, Mary decided to drive to the hospital. “Since she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet,” Lyft went on, “she stayed in driver mode, and sure enough—ping!— she received a ride request en route to the hospital.”

“Luckily,” as Lyft put it, the passenger requested a short trip. After completing it, Mary went to the hospital, where she was informed that she was in labor. She gave birth to a daughter, whose picture appears in the post. (She’s wearing a “Little Miss Lyft” onesie.) The post concludes with a call for similar stories: “Do you have an exciting Lyft story you’d love to share? Tweet us your story at @lyft_CHI!”

Mary’s story looks different to different people. Within the ghoulishly cheerful Lyft public-relations machinery, Mary is an exemplar of hard work and dedication—the latter being, perhaps, hard to come by in a company that refuses to classify its drivers as employees. Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit—taking ride requests while she was in labor!—is an “exciting” example of how seamless and flexible app-based employment can be. Look at that hustle! You can make a quick buck with Lyft anytime, even when your cervix is dilating.

More here.

Posted in Business, Careers, Social Responsibility and tagged , , .


  1. In a world that is ruled by money, overworking and overachieving has become the norm. Mental health and personal care have taken a back seat to the glorification of straining one’s self to make that extra buck. “At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system.” The author is referencing to the lack of high paying and sustainable jobs in our economy. This lack of well-paid jobs, especially ones that don’t ensure health benefits have pushed workers to the end and America and the media have responded with applause. More often than not, I scroll through quotes and posts online and see posts which speak to putting everything into your work and ignoring mental health. People on social media portray their “busy lives” by complaining about how they never sleep and drink so much coffee! How relatable! The appeal of these types of posts is that someone else is working harder than you, which in turn motivates you. However, what the post is really portraying is that lack of sleep, lots of coffee, and emotional breakdowns equal success. And now, for many students, that is the standard. Teens and young adults are presented this commercialized illusion that if they don’t work “this” hard, then they are not working hard enough. And that when they do reach this point of overworking and over exhaustion they should post about it and in turn they will be applauded and praised. Just as this article points out, I too, see more and more companies rewarding and endorsing this mentality. They can deny these claims but the approval and praise they give to these types of situations is confirmation enough. This is an extremely dangerous hole we have dug ourselves into. One which could, in extreme cases, lead to drug abuse, lack of personal care, and detrimental effects to a person’s mental health. Obviously, this needs to change. America could help to fix this issue by tweaking jobs like Lyft and Uber, which push employees to do more for an extra buck. They could also help by providing better paying jobs with benefits. Ultimately, it is time to stop advertising this type of work. It is important for us to realize that this glorification must stop, before Americans wear themselves thin.

  2. 1) I can agree with Jia’s post. Today, overworking yourself and taking yourself away from personal and mental vacation time is almost praised. However, this can lead to many health complications that most companies ignore. For example, working long hours can lead to unhealthy eating habits, stress, bad posture, poor eyesight, and most of all lack of exercise. I do notice this with many people I know. For example, my dad is always up at four am to catch the train and sometimes won’t come home until ten or eleven that night. When the weekends come, he is many times on conference calls or on his computer working even when we are on family vacations and he is known to miss out of fun excursions because of work needing him. He is given vacation time, but this does not mean he will not answer the phone if someone needs him. Another example is that people in some countries like Singapore are underpaid and work a lot of overtime. This does lead to many of the above, mentioned complications. In the growing and changing industry, we have evolved from working nine to five at a desk job to a twenty-four hour, seven days a week online job where the work almost never stops. This overload leads to many like the girl noted in the article to have overwork because they needed the money, or they can’t just stop for personal matters because money is a larger requirement in some/many societies. Another personal example is my aunt. She works constantly as a single mom and can never catch a day off because money is a larger importance to her in comparison to someone who has two partners creating an income with children. Families, especially single families, do struggle more than others and this should have more companies willing to step up and help their employees who are pushing and working hard to keep their companies moving along successfully. If more jobs are creating jobs for more employees, this can elevate less stress from workers. Another way is companies can offer overtime amounts, but some companies would have to set limits because everyone cannot be working overtime all of the time because of the pay. Some would have to apply to work overtime or be given a certain number of hours or pay for the hours they do work overtime.

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