The challenges and benefits of a rising workforce of ‘on-demand workers’

Swati Rai  

Reclaiming Remote Working

A relatively new free market work model, ‘gig economy’ and ‘contingent workforce’, comprises employees opting for short term, instead of full or even part time employment and engagement with companies. They could be freelancers, on-call and short-term, temporary employees, independent contractors.

The rise of gig economy has also been due to the financial constraints of organisations and the concomitant staff reductions. With the influx of millennials in the workforce, the concept and attitude of a ‘job for life’ has also undergone a change, globally. A portfolio career now in professional circles is not unheard of and neither does this employment fall in a low wage and low skilled category.  This phenomenon is a part of the changing cultural and business environment. The digital age has eased mobility for organisations as well as employees. The job and your works station needn’t share the same pin location, a decoupling of the coordinates of work has led to greater professional expansion.

Advantages of a ‘contingent’ work mode

This rising trend in work economy, augurs well for both parties involved. Many employees see it as an exciting career path that allows flexibility across different industries, companies, and areas of expertise. The ease and speed of doing business especially for start ups without the need to expand fully, is bolstered with the engagement of temporary, on-demand staff. Based on specific projects, employers have the liberty to select the best talent for the job in a gig economy. Logistical costs are slashed and company presence imprinted, even in remote locations, making it a win-win for both involved. There is also a chance for the employees to maintain a work-life balance, plan self improvement stints and garner a varied set of skill sets on-the-job, in different locations. There is also the case of being able to follow one’s passion, on an aside. Following and working on projects of one’s interest becomes an added exciting benefit for short term workers.

The Road Ahead

Like anything else, gig economy also comes with its share of hurdles. The challenge that organisations face with the ever changing work atmosphere in the gig economy is here to stay, especially as companies continue to cut costs, in so far as investment in the employees’ training, benefits, and also office space, is concerned. There is a growing need to keep the short term employees in the loop and manage them as teams. The need to be one team when the employee works for rival companies too becomes a challenge, at times. Mostly, there are ad hoc arrangements made for managing remote teams, that lead to miscommunication and a growing disconnect.

The disillusionment amongst short term employees also seeps in when the question and comparison of regular employees with ‘giggers’ is raised. Some of the latter may feel that the permanent employees are treated better and secure greater benefits- monetary or otherwise. There is also the case of getting offered financial support for further qualifications and professional growth.

The real time professional growth of the employee and also of keeping a check on their other assignments that may be potential conflict of interest, is still a grey area.  Line managing employees is especially a challenge when teams are spread across GMT and projects.  The solution with most companies lies in equating skills and capabilities of employees across the nature of employment. Presenting freelancers with opportunities of visibility, recognition and work opportunities, is another way of securing and retaining talent.

At a time when borders are shrinking and work, more or less, spills across physical bounds – gig economy is here to stay, as highly skilled professionals continue to be engaged for projects that drives innovation. Technological advancements and collaboration across time zones is yet another way for businesses to meet the demands. A new set of attitudes towards work and expectations for both parties is adding to this dynamic change, which is more than a passing fad. With agility of the organisations getting upped as a result of the rising ‘contingent work force’, even in mid-level and blue chip companies, there is now a need to ride this success wave with increased collaboration, involvement and support.

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