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The agency search: The meaning of work for app drivers

Purpose: This study aims to investigate how app drivers are giving meaning to their work, taking as a theoretical assumption the model proposed by Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski (2010). Originality/value: Internationally, the volume of empirical research involving digital labor markets is considered to be low. Nationally, research in the context of Sharing Economy rarely focuses on the labor perspective. Despite being a growing phenomenon, no studies were found on the production of meanings and meaningfulness of work by app drivers. Design/methodology/approach: This qualitative and exploratory research was carried out with 37 app drivers between May and September 2017, in Porto Alegre (RS, Brazil). Randomly selected, respondents were called to a work route by the transport application. The interviews’ content was categorized and analyzed according to the framework of Rosso et al. (2010). Findings: Elements that refer to all the model quadrants were found: “self-connection”, “individuation”, “contribution”, and “unification”. The predominant meaning, however, is desire, seeking and valuing by the agency, in the mechanisms of self-efficacy and self-management, especially in the financial, autonomy and flexibility perspectives. This research contributes to the intersection of the study of the labor world transformations and the construction of meanings and meaningfulness, using a framework little used in Brazilian research. It also collaborates to broaden the understanding of digital labor markets, especially their impact on workers.