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The future of work may look more like a gig

Organizations like McKinsey and Deloitte have been giving us a glimpse of what the future of work will look like for over ten years. Well, the future is here! Pre-COVID, we already were on a pathway to a workforce far more flexible than ever before. The pandemic has accelerated that trend.

As we discussed in our book, Ultimate Gig, human resource professionals have been employing the idea of flextime for more than a decade. Within a traditional work environment, flextime was primarily about working from home during hours that the worker typically would be expected to be in the office or manufacturing facility.

Gig work, on the other hand, is much more than an opportunity for workers to perform their tasks when they choose.

Researchers have documented how robots and artificial intelligence are increasing productivity in how products are manufactured but also in how they are managed, sold and put into the consumer’s hands. The facts are the need for employees is and has been shrinking for many years. The idea of measuring employment by metrics that only count those involved in traditional full-time employment (over 30 hours per week) is already antiquated and about to become extinct. Contracting with talent and expertise who desire to work as an independent contractor is growing and is forecasted to continue to grow.  These new advancements and happenings have been integral to the strategic planning process for government, organizations, and all business models.

Those who provide the benefits associated with traditional employment have consistently increased the cost of the products they make available, making it more challenging for any business to function without raising prices on the products and services they make available to consumers. This begins to sound like a doom loop; however, advancements in the way we use technology and the birth of what we describe as a digital economy have reduced the cost associated with work and how we market products and services. The gig economy provides labor that is willing to influence consumers and/or provide goods and services that consumers need. Gig workers do not expect to be treated as employees because flexibility, not adherence to specific work hours, is a primary motivator. For gig-providing companies, this labor force becomes available without the burden of the portfolio of benefits that all employees expect to receive. As we found when conducting our research, over 51% of all companies surveyed plan to use more independent contractors or what is often referred to as “alternative labor.”  Companies like Upwork and Fiverr do not provide gigs; they have built very successful enterprises capitalizing on the abundance of talent that prefers to freelance vs. work the traditional hours associated with the 100-year-old industrial economy model. Upwork describes itself as the world’s largest remote talent platform connecting freelancers (gig workers) with those who need the talent. The listing of work possibilities on their website is enormous.

Gig work is the popular label, but the breadth and depth of gig opportunities go far beyond being just a part-time job.