Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives
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Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives

Edited by Daniel Wheatley

The growing diversity of contemporary paid work has provoked increased interest in understanding and evaluating the quality of working lives. This Handbook provides critical reflections on recent research in the field, including examining the inextricable links between working life and well-being.
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Chapter 10: Ethnographic methods with limited access: assessing quality of work in hard to reach jobs

Adam Badger and Jamie Woodcock

Abstract

This chapter explores the use of ethnographic methods in work contexts with access challenges. It is clear that many workplaces (broadly defined) have pressing concerns over quality of work, but many of these can be difficult to explore in empirical research. This chapter will focus particularly on examples in the gig economy, discussing a gig work platform and its growing presence in the UK. Beyond the glossy customer app and worker recruitment, the issues with quality of work have become obscured. The requirement to navigate and traverse the city, in collaboration with algorithmic management structures, makes this particularly suitable for experimental ethnographic methods. This chapter critically explores the authors’ own ethnographic research into the quality of working for a platform, in particular looking at questions of sustained access and the robustness of data collection methods. The aim is to further open the discourse on researching the “gig-economy”.

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