Home, work and health in the Airbnb system
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Background and Objectives: With Airbnb accommodation-sharing, a new form of entrepreneurial work is emerging and is disrupting traditional business practices. As a self-employed worker, the host lacks the protections under Ontario’s Employment Standard Act, including pension, retirement benefits, paid vacation and time-off benefits, that are conventionally afforded to those under more stable employment contracts. Additionally, Airbnb does not adhere to the same strict health and safety regulations as hotels, leaving guests vulnerable in the system as well. This study explored the health and safety standpoints and experiences of Airbnb hosts and guests, particularly focusing on risk assessment and risk management. Methods: Using a multi-method qualitative research design, I drew on document analysis of online posts by Airbnb hosts on the Airbnb Community forum as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews. Document analysis guided the development of the interview protocol. A purposive sample of eight hosts and nine guests was used. Interviews were conducted either face-to-face or over the phone, audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and entered into NVivo qualitative data software. Data were distilled into codes. Codes were linked and compared within and across data to develop key themes. Results: The findings identified key health and safety issues facing users: (1) physical risk factors including issues with cleanliness and space; (2) factors that affect their physical safety including door locks and guest verification as well as (3) psychosocial stressors. Capturing users’ perceptions and experiences helped position these risks in the day-to-day contexts within which they live. Additionally, hosts described their decision-making processes; interactions with guests and the Airbnb platform that affect their work; and strategies they used to both minimize the risks as well as maintain a good work-life balance. Conclusions: The findings provided an understanding of the health and safety experiences of Airbnb users, and informed public policy choices for housing, hotels, and short-term rental companies such as Airbnb. In addition, with new forms of work emerging, there is an added pressure upon Canada's work and health systems to function and support workers well. These health and safety considerations can also be extendable to vulnerable workers working in other sharing economy types. The results will help policymakers as they formulate regulation for this growing industry, as well as encourage Airbnb users to consider their health and safety while navigating the system.
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Julia Goyal (2018). Home, work and health in the Airbnb system. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14080