The Omicron Variant Should Increase Demand For Gig Workers

B. Michael Logan

Gig workers everywhere, especially independently contracted food delivery workers, noticed their demand drop as initial COVID restrictions lifted. However, during the initial wave of COVID when the streets fell silent, only the hum of the second-hand delivery vehicles kept the roads from the barren landscape of Will Smith's I Am Legend.

With many of the restaurants evolving to the hybrid model of offering delivery during the peak of the pandemic, even when some were so adamantly against it, it seems demand for independently contracted food delivery workers will remain steady for the foreseeable future.

Steady Doesn't Mean Demand Increases

News outlets everywhere always question whether we're going to see a full-blown lockdown again with every new variant. With how much Spiderman No Way Home crashed multiple ticketing websites during the first day of pre-orders, it seems the general population has no intention of returning to the closest our society has ever gotten to Hollywood's version of a post-apocalyptic setting.

But what does this mean for the gig workers who, along with the insufficiently respected restaurant staff, kept the masses fed and generated billions of dollars in 2020 alone?

What Goes Up Must Come Down

One must always be king and, in the fierce battle between dining in and food delivery, only one can reign supreme. If more people are dining in at restaurants, then fewer people are ordering delivery. If more people are ordering delivery, then fewer people are dining in. The fluctuation temporarily flips on its head with the announcement of each variant.

Unfortunately, with each variant getting the collective aloofness of the general population, it's difficult to predict consumer behavior.

A Window In A Perfect World

In a perfect world, a global pandemic wouldn't be ravaging society, we would have the best healthcare at no additional cost to taxpayers, Firefly would still be on TV, Star Wars: The Last Jedi wouldn't exist, and U2 wouldn't force their music onto our devices. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and we still don't know how to react when a new COVID variant is all you hear about from the talking heads on television as we beg our employers to let us back into the safety of our home work office.

There's no way of knowing how we would react with every new variant. If we wanted to get close to perfect: we would lock things down, slow the spread, and ease the burden of the hospital system. For food delivery drivers, that means they're finally going to pay off the massive debt they were driving for in the first place.

Predicting The Future

Right now, we only have food delivery statistics to analyze based on our past behavior two or three COVID variants ago. However, if the Omicron variant were to make its way to our shores, we could see a tightening up of COVID restrictions yet again. With the tumultuous roller coaster of financial lows, the restaurant industry rode during peak lockdown, we can count on our hands how many would voluntarily close if asked nicely by city, state, local, or federal government.

If the Omicron variant became impactful enough for restaurants to once again close their doors to the public, demand for gig workers should increase.

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