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April 23, 2020 4:30 PM, EDT

Instacart Doubled Workforce in a Month

Company Seeks 250,000 More Employees
The logo for the Instacart application is displayed on an iPhone.(Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News)

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Instacart Inc. more than doubled the number of people who pick and deliver groceries to customers over the past few weeks and said it will add an additional 250,000 in the next two months, a response to unprecedented demand for the service.

The San Francisco-based startup said April 23 that it had quickly surpassed last month’s goal to add 300,000 workers, an aggressive target that even exceeded one set by Amazon.com. Instacart now has more than 500,000 in total but continues to be overwhelmed by demand. Order volume last week was up sixfold from a year ago, the company said.

For the next recruitment spree, Instacart will focus on six areas with the highest demand: California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Toronto and Washington. The company aims to bring back its offering of same-day or even one-hour delivery. Currently, deliveries can take a week or two, a time frame that has frustrated customers and bedeviled the company since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The rapid expansion has brought many challenges. Some Instacart workers have staged walkouts or spoken out saying the company hasn’t done enough to minimize their risk of being exposed to the virus.

Instacart said April 23 it’s taking additional steps to protect and compensate workers. It’s adding a new software tool to evaluate whether a worker is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Part-time employees and members of Instacart’s gig workforce who are diagnosed or ordered into quarantine are eligible for sick pay from the company. The company declined to say how many people are eligible.

Workers began receiving COVID-19 bonuses last month. The amount varies from $2 to $4 per order depending on the region, demand and other factors.

Instacart expects to recruit workers from other gig companies, like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. whose drivers are largely idle, along with more traditional companies. Instacart said it’s working with more than two dozen airlines and other businesses that have recently terminated or furloughed employees to offer them jobs.

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