As the world gets more complicated, we’re seeing a rising need for what I’ll call micro jobs. A micro job is even smaller than an odd job. If an odd job involves painting a fence for half a day, a micro job might involve changing the battery in a senior citizen’s smoke detector. A micro job is too small to attract even the unemployed.
A typical homeowner has lots of micro jobs piling up around the house. Maybe an inaccessible light bulb is blown out and you don’t have a tall ladder. Maybe you want to install a dimmer switch and you’re not comfortable around electricity. Maybe there’s a dead mouse in your trap and you’re too freaked out to deal with it. You can come up with a long list of jobs you’d rather pay someone to do for you, if only that person were easily identified and reasonably priced.
This is where my idea of Job Bunching comes in. Imagine going to a website and entering a short description of your micro job need. When your neighborhood has collectively entered enough micro jobs – which might take some time – it becomes worthwhile for someone to accept the jobs as a bunch. He or she can drive to the neighborhood and handle ten minor jobs in half a day, each one paying a minimum of $20 dollars.
There’s a small risk that an efficient serial killer would realize this is a convenient way to murder an entire neighborhood in one afternoon. Obviously the job bunching service would need some sort of background and reference checking. And your neighbors could stay alert and listen for screams if the micro job guy is in the neighborhood. Risk can’t be eliminated, but it’s risky to hire a plumber too.
As the ranks of senior citizens swell, and many prefer to live independently, the need for micro jobs will skyrocket. Maybe one senior needs a ride, one wants something from the store, and a third can’t get the remote control that fell under the sofa.
The micro jobs need not be unskilled. Some customers might need antivirus software installed, or a ten-minute tutorial on using Skype. Another customer might need a water heater relit, or some expert gardening advice that only takes ten minutes. After the job bunching service becomes popular, I can imagine the lead times getting shorter. Service providers might follow a route scheduled by the system to minimize distance. Each stop along the way would receive email or text updates with continuously updated estimates of arrival times. Perhaps customers could check a map to see where the provider is and what his proposed path of jobs is for the day.
Your first thought about this idea might be that everyone has friends and family who would happily perform all of these little jobs for free if asked. If that’s your situation, you’re lucky. But I think you’d find lots of people who don’t want to bother family members, don’t know their neighbors, or don’t want to appear helpless. It’s hard to admit to someone close that you’re not comfortable climbing a ladder, or that you’re afraid of a dead mouse.
I see job bunching as a natural response to five trends:
- The world is getting more complicated.
- Working people are extraordinarily busy.
- The number of seniors is increasing.
- Unemployment and under-employment will probably stay high.
- Technology can easily bunch jobs by location.
A big advantage of job bunching is that it can have flexible hours. That would give the otherwise unemployed enough time to look for permanent jobs, go to school, or get training, while paying bills at the same time. And “Micro Job Vendor” probably looks better on a resume than “unemployed.”
In my capacity as an independent candidate for President of the United States, I feel it’s my job to offer specific suggestions for getting people back to work. I don’t know what those other candidates were doing today, but it probably involved sexual harassment, lobbying while calling it something else, dodging blame, being ineffective, worshipping the wrong god, and that sort of thing. I did most of those things today too, but I also came up with this job bunching idea, and that’s not nothing.