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06/03/2020 | Pressemitteilung

Crowdwork in the company: The rules must be right

Both employees and employers can benefit from internal crowdwork. However, clear rules are needed to ensure that this works and that employees do not suffer from additional workloads, have to work in their free time, or that the working atmosphere deteriorates due to increasing competitive pressure. This is shown by a recent study sponsored by the Hans Böckler Foundation and conducted by the Department of Information Systems (Prof. Dr. Jan Marco Leimeister) at the University of Kassel.

Image: Paavo Blafield.

Crowdwork is on the rise in the modern working world. Tasks are assigned online via an open call to a larger number of processors. One variant of this is so-called internal crowdwork: companies call on their own staff to apply for work assignments on IT-based platforms. The business informatics experts Prof. Dr. Jan Marco Leimeister, Dr. David Durward and Benedikt Simmert from the University of Kassel have studied this new form of work organization. According to their findings, it certainly has advantages: It can enable employees to work in a self-determined manner and help companies achieve greater flexibility and efficiency. But the conditions must be right for this to happen. The key is to have precisely defined rules that prevent competition and work overload.

For their study, the researchers interviewed experts at several companies and conducted surveys among employees. Internal crowds are used there, among other things, to develop solutions for logistical problems, to assess the potential of new product ideas or to have entire projects handled by "cross-functional teams. Participation is voluntary throughout, and the tasks assigned must be completed in addition to the actual work.

According to the researchers, this form of work organization is attractive to companies in several respects. A "flexible resource pool" is created that makes it possible to compensate for capacity fluctuations by quickly assembling teams with highly motivated employees. Unused potential in the workforce - idle skills and knowledge - is exploited. This leads to cooperation across team and department boundaries, which can help to break down "silo thinking". In this way, many tasks can be completed more cost-effectively, more quickly and with higher quality.

The researchers also identified advantages from the employee's point of view. There is the prospect of variety beyond the routine, and collaboration with colleagues from other areas allows them to "think outside the box. The opportunity to make autonomous decisions about part of their personal working time and to participate in solving tasks in a self-determined manner is perceived by many employees as a "valuable contribution to personal development and growth. This has a positive effect on both satisfaction and identification with the company.

However, the authors warn that there are also downsides. Often, the tasks that arise in the crowd represent additional work for the employees, which they have to integrate into their daily work routine. There is a risk that work will be compressed or that employees will have to work during their free time. If performance as a crowdworker has an influence on the overall assessment of employees, the pressure to participate increases. This could create stress and intensify competition within the workforce.

To prevent this from happening, Leimeister, Durward and Simmert recommend that management should create space for crowd work and set clear rules for its use. This would not work without a "new form of leadership based on trust."


The current study:


Further studies by the Hans Böckler Foundation in cooperation with the University of Kassel on this topic:


  • Leimeister, J.M., Zogaj, S. (2013): New work organization through crowdsourcing: a literature review (HBS Study 287):


  • Leimeister, J.M., Durward, D., Zogaj, S. (2016): Crowd workers in Germany: an empirical study of the work environment on external crowdsourcing platforms (HBS Study 323):


  • Leimeister, J.M., Durward, D., Zogaj, S., Blohm, I. (2016): Systematization and analysis of crowdsourcing providers and crowdwork projects (HBS Study 324):



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