Before the internet came and swept us all away, employment usually meant tying yourself to one employer where you’d spend an equal amount of time each day. Now, thanks to the digital revolution, many people choose to work as full-time independent contractors. The term “gig economy” usually brings Uber or Foodora to mind. But as a matter of fact, it’s much broader than that. It’s videographers, content managers, programmers, and artists – it’s the people freelancing for several businesses at once. And soon enough, it might even be all of us.
Welcome to a new reality where it’s not so much about the type of employment you have, but the skills you bring to the table. We’re beginning to shift away from a stagnant way of working and into a more dynamic, individual, and skill-based workforce that companies can hire to fulfill a particular task. A compliment to jobs as we once knew them.
A paradigm shift with the gig economy leading the way
The term gig economy began to arise in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis as an answer to the weak job market and as a way to lower the barrier for people to make ends meet. As the years went by and technology shaped more and more aspects of our lives, companies had to quickly meet new burning demands, and shift into a more adaptable mindset in order to stay ahead of competitors. The gig economy enables businesses to now, with minimal effort, fill a knowledge gap in their organizations within minutes at a minimal cost, and get access to a world of specialists across borders. Perks like having the flexibility to choose your own working hours, maintaining a better work-life balance, and having an opportunity to earn an additional salary are why gig workers are flooding the internet.
But, this is not entirely true – at least not for everyone. Gig workers also face a great deal of uncertainty with no guaranteed payouts, no standard benefits, and a field that’s getting more and more competitive. Despite the fact that there are gig economy platforms to connect businesses with a quality pool of talents. Some of these challenges remain unresolved until there’s a solid foundation and safety net for giggers’ to fall back on. This has put pressure on companies like Uber, who has proposed a new model for gig workers to be provided with guaranteed benefits. Just as companies expect high quality work, giggers should receive the same consideration in return.
Despite the uncertainty that comes with choosing a more flexible path, Upwork saw a 24% increase in the number of sign-ups on their platform this summer compared to previous years. This means that even during a pandemic, people are still turning to freelance work.
Attitudes are changing
The climate is changing and so is the way we view professional success. The idea of “climbing up the latter and reaching a higher position” is shifting to a more purpose-driven, freedom-seeking workforce. Forget the job title or seniority – instead of living for a job description or a title, workers get to embrace their multifacetedness. A study by Upwork says that 51% of freelancers wouldn’t go back to a traditional job, even if it meant a raise in salary. The opportunity to become a gigger has the potential to reach even the less flexible industries. Anna Jardelid has been “gigging” as an HR manager and had this to say about her choice to break away from having a traditional career.
“For me, the idea of becoming a gigger began to arise when I ended up working on a project with extremely competent “gig-coworkers.” Unlike consultants, who usually perform specific tasks, as a gigger I get to question previous structures and processes to find the right solution for a specific customer.
To achieve long-lasting change, new behaviors have to be cultivated and you have to understand a company’s inner structures. As a gigger in HR/People, I get the opportunity to work “inside and out” and walk into the room with new energy, and see things with new eyes and a new fresh perspective. I’m able to walk into the right context but can stay away from the operative details, subculture, and intern politics. I’m able to remain focused on what’s most important, which is to drive results for the customer. And in the fast-paced world we live in, hiring a gigger is a brilliant way to create that WOW effect and true value for the customer.”
The workplace has accelerated at least a decade during these past several months. Flexibility and geographical freedom are now more than a passing trend. The gig economy has proven itself to be a bridge between the old and the new, by providing workers with an alternative to the traditional way of working.