The gig economy has more than doubled in size since its birth at the start of the millennium and UK businesses are already one of the top employers of short-contract gig-workers. By 2030, they will make up the majority of the UK workforce.
The emergence of the gig economy is a clear sign of the times. A reflection of the increasing appetite for work-life flexibility, entrepreneurship, choice and higher earnings for employees; it also recognises the commercial challenges faced by many employers as they look to reduce costs, be nimble and access the best talent as and when it’s needed.
With more businesses realising the commercial advantage of a more flexible approach to people-power, it raises an important question. Is your workplace set up for gig-workers and do you have gig-worker appeal?
Firstly, we have to address who gig-workers are. The term refers to freelancers, agency-workers, consultants and those on zero-hour contracts however, in this context we’re concerned with freelancers and consultant, who are typically high qualified, skilled and experienced, as well as ready and willing to deliver projects to specific outcomes. Offering a more time and cost-efficient option, gig-workers help companies to grow and increase productivity far quicker than traditional employees, as they are outcome-driven and can be deployed as needed. The gig economy is also linked to greater innovation, with its short-term nature injecting companies with new skills and ideas and encouraging them to experiment with new projects, without the long-term costs associated with finding and appointing a new hire.
New research suggests that post-Brexit, almost three in five British gig-workers are likely to relocate to another EU country for a ‘gig’ or contract job. With so many businesses reaping the benefits of this temporary workforce, there is a risk of a talent and flexible resource black hole unless they make their environments, cultures and systems appealing to gig-workers. Here are the four primary considerations to make the physical and virtual workplace attractive to today’s gig-worker.
Organisations that use gig-workers have a regular flow of new faces in and out of the business. As such, it’s important to have an open, inclusive and friendly culture in order to help all employees, regardless of status, settle into the organisation and their team quickly. Finding ways to successfully and quickly on-board new gig-workers, perhaps with a short induction or workplace tour for physical on-site staff or a ‘getting to know us’ content directory or introductory brand video for remote workers, will help to make sure they feel fully supported and engaged on day one. These workers need a positive brand experience, just like full-time employees, for they are brand ambassadors for the duration of their contract. They should be treated with respect and given access to the same support and facilities as their professional, full-time counterparts. (Note – it’s also important to make sure that full-time employees understand the role of gig-workers and value their input to create one homogenised workforce).
2.Secure systems access
Gig-workers expect to get on with their work quickly and effectively and that means giving them the right access to software and systems. Mobility must be at the heart of the technology experience for all employees, but especially gig-workers as they often work remotely. This should be managed proactively to ensure consistency of service and security for all employees and gig-workers, regardless of location or the devices they use.
While it’s not typically an employer’s responsibility to equip gig-workers with phones or laptops, they do need access to wider collaboration technologies to ensure they can work with colleagues easily, regardless of location. This should include access to file-sharing and visual collaboration technologies that could aid communication with the team and the dissemination of information.
Until now collaborative technologies have been tools to help employees talk about their work, rather than as a means to change how they work, but that is changing. As machine learning, virtual assistants and new collaborative technologies enter the workplace, businesses will be better equipped to give all types of employees a fully immersive, collaborative, effective and efficient workplace experience. Those that invest in and commit to new technology will derive the most value from the gig economy.
4.Project-minded work environment
Gig-workers are outcome driven and as such have a keen focus on productivity and efficiency in order to make a living and maintain their reputation. As well as needing the right technology tools to thrive, gig-workers also need the right environment and that means spaces conducive with collaboration. The workplace has already started its transition from static, fixed desk working to more dynamic activity-based environments and this is particularly important for gig-workers. Project spaces should include huddle zones for video calls and visuals collaboration, small meeting rooms, informal touch-down spaces and breakout areas for team discussions and project catch ups. Gig-workers should be shown how the spaces can be used and should feel empowered to use them as they see fit.
The gig economy is growing at an exponential rate and on a global scale. Seventy two percent of British Millennials said they would look to Europe for gig-work after Brexit and over a third of people working in the booming gig economy who are over the age of 55 say they’re drawn to gig-work as an easy transition into retirement. This new way of working has huge appeal for professionals of all ages, all of whom are seeking greater flexibility and choice about who, when and where they work. With 77% of American gig-workers saying they earn more as freelancers then they did in full-time employment, there’s a compelling financial case too.
Although these statistics reflect more than just the ‘highly skilled professional’ end of the gig economy, they do highlight its increasing appeal and the opportunities available for growth and innovation-hungry businesses.
The gig economy is changing the labour market and adding to the ever-evolving demands placed on the modern workplace. While gig-working has the potential to help organisations reduce space costs by embracing agility and reducing their fixed head count, it can only do this with accurate data about how and when spaces are used, and the needs of the users. Managing property portfolios when the act of work is evolving is no small challenge. Businesses that choose to really understand the relationship between their people, place, technology and culture, and how they can be better aligned to support business strategy, stand to reap the best rewards from the growing gig economy.