Steering wheels to make ends meet: Understanding stressors and coping strategies among app-based taxi drivers in Tehran
This paper explores the stressors and coping strategies of app-based taxi drivers in Tehran, Iran. It first reviews how most existing research on workplace stress overlooks work that is app-based (and thus lacking traditional employment relationships), work located in the third world, stressors embedded in social rather than platform context, and coping mechanisms, then reviews literature on the importance of country and occupational context and the applicability of social stress theory. The paper then finds that the main stressors faced by its population are making ends meet, damaging reputation, mistreatment, personal boundary violation, fear of victimization, and the need to fulfil traditional gender roles. The main coping strategies are hiding their job to avoid reputational damage, adjusting how they work to avoid mistreatment and personal boundary violation, rationalizing their job as their temporary rather than proper occupation to distance their association with the various stressors, trusting God to help them through the various stressors, looking for another job to get out of the various stressors, and sacrificing their wellbeing to work harder for their families to better fulfil gender roles. The research’s theoretical contributions lie in finding that app-based work still creates stressors for the same third-world populations it benefits, lack of organizational resources, collectivist cultural context, and low social status in combination cause app-based workers to apply passive personal coping strategies to continuing work as a driver rather than actively targeting the cause of stressors, relying on community support, or collectively pushing for better terms of work. All this demonstrates that app-based workers’ experiences must be understood in the social and cultural context that shapes the perception and social status of that work. The paper concludes by recommending how app-based taxi companies could help their workers better manage their stressors and thus be able to stay longer in their jobs.