Uber was one of the pioneers of the gig economy, but now the company is aiming to help more people find other flexible shift work through an app that acts as a staffing agency.
The new app, Uber Works, allows people looking for work to find opportunities in customer service, cooking, cleaning, and manual labor. Workers will be able to compare job locations, conditions, pay, and hours before signing up for a job, according to an announcement. Uber Works is currently only available in Chicago.
People who download the app will undergo a background check and in-person screening process, ensuring that employers receive "vetted and qualified" employees.
Workers will be able to track their hours, including breaks, in the app. They'll then be paid through TrueBlue or TalentBurst, two third-party staffing agencies.
"We believe a more efficient marketplace will also support businesses. By providing a reliable pool of vetted and qualified workers, Uber Works can help businesses reduce scheduling headaches, weather seasonal variations, and staff up for unexpected demand," according to Uber's statement.
"Many will appreciate the additional opportunity for work," said Therese Gedda, a future of work expert and founder of 30minMBA, a workplace consulting company. "If you are a night owl, choosing work that allows you to have a later rhythm can increase your overall performance."
An Uber spokesperson told NBC News that as the app scales in the future, it could also become a resource for helping people find work after being released from prison.
"As Uber Works continues to scale, and consistent with Uber's broader advocacy on this matter, the company believes that access to work can promote citizen re-entry and reduce recidivism for individuals who are seeking employment," the spokesperson said.
The launch of the app could also provide a much-needed revenue boost to the company at a time when its core business struggles to turn a profit.
"Uber is looking for ways to diversify its business model and find a path to profitability, with Uber Works helping drive this strategy," said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. "We see Uber Works as an incremental driver of revenue growth for 2020."
Gedda said there has been "low technical disruption to date" in the staffing industry, and expects to see "increasing amounts of pivots like this in the future" from other companies.
While Uber is a big name entering the on demand staffing market, the company already has plenty of competition from other shift-oriented apps in the United States.
Jyve, an on-demand platform, connects people with part-time work in retail stores, including moving boxes, stocking shelves, checking inventory, and building displays. Employees take photos and leave comments about their work, which can then be reviewed and can lead to more opportunities on the platform.
Other apps such as Wonolo, Workpop, and Shiftgig connect employers with a workforce looking to fill shifts doing everything from cooking and cleaning to stocking shelves and administrative tasks. TaskRabbit, which is owned by IKEA, also offers people the opportunity to hire a tasker for a one-off job or on a recurring basis.