For most, employment is essential because it pays the bills. However, a job can offer incredible opportunity, connections, relationships, and other elements that improve lives both personally and professionally.
The job market is always changing and both in times of economic prosperity or a downturn, opportunities will likely present themselves that offer an infinite number of ways to share our interests and express our passions through the work we do. How does one get “lucky” enough to land a role where you look forward to the work you do each day?
Gone are the days of old school perceptions around job and career longevity. Fewer people are associating career success with the number of years they’ve been at a company. The best part of this transition is that we no longer have to settle into jobs we loathe or embark on an uninspiring career path. The way we work is now continually evolving because of digitization and the growth of technology, the progression and expansion of various career paths, and the fluctuation of unemployment rates. These elements have brought forward a style of work that is not only appealing to people who despise a traditional nine-to-five work week, but also those who are looking for supplemental income, and those who want to incorporate their interests and passions into the service they provide to others. These people make up the gig economy.
What is the Gig Economy?
People who work in a traditional workplace understand that they will be told what time to arrive, provided uniform or apparel parameters, and given direction on what should be completed each day. Contrary to these roles, the type of work that makes up the gig economy is just what it sounds like... an environment in which employment includes temporary positions or “gigs” where work selection is entirely at the discretion of the individual - allowing them to freely choose as they go from one project/assignment to another. People that work in the gig economy are categorized as independent contractors or freelancers. Their engagements are usually short-term but can last as long as agreed upon by both parties. The gig economy is not new as the word dates back to the 1920’s and was originally associated with performances by jazz musicians. Today, the term describes the growing phenomenon of task-based employment and encompasses a concept that is under scrutiny and undeniable change.
According to a recent report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 10 percent of American workers in 2017 were employed in some form of what the government calls “alternative work arrangements.” However, the government’s numbers, do not include people who did gig or freelance work in addition to traditional jobs (including renting out a home on Airbnb). Separate data released by the Federal Reserve found that nearly a third of adults engaged in some form of gig work, as a primary job or supplement to other sources of income.
Types of Jobs Within the Gig Economy
The emergence of Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and more have transformed the gig economy and brought about substantial examination as to how the concept has impacted the overall job market. Other jobs that contribute to the gig economy include, but aren’t limited to: freelance or consulting work, tutoring/teaching, babysitting/care-taking, tech repair, landscaping businesses, photography or videography, music performances, working through a job placement service, and more.
Who Works These Jobs?
The gig economy doesn’t favor one demographic over another. That said, the perception, opinions, and benefits associated with the style of work are different from generation to generation. Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers are all contributing to the gig economy but may not share the same methodology based on stage of life, financial need, and preferred work style.
Millennials (those born roughly between 1981-1996) are known proponents of the gig economy. As Millennials entered the workforce, digitization, financial pressures (leading up to and following the Great Recession), and new work-life balance ideals were becoming more and more present, giving this generation the impetus to look for a means of income elsewhere.
According to a Prudential report, Millennials were found to proactively choose to do gig work, and view gig work, as providing the flexibility and freedom to pursue their long-term aspirations. Additionally, Millennials are more inclined to take on freelance or contract work to make extra money on the side. In contrast, Gen X and Boomers tend to start gig work due to financial wellness circumstances or retirement shortfalls. While financial necessity may be a factor for Gen X and Boomers, other factors include the value that Gen X places on balancing career and family needs, and the value Boomers place on autonomy and control when taking freelance jobs – as well as feeling it’s a favorable option to earn income at their stage in life. In fact, according to a paper published by economics professors at Harvard and Princeton universities, nearly 24 percent of Boomer adults between 55 and 74 are working in an alternative work arrangement.
Benefits of Working in the Gig Economy
While there are many ways individuals can reap the rewards of working in the gig economy, it can be an equally attractive arrangement for organizations. Inserting fresh ideas and perspectives, along with different skills and useful tools from external contributors, is a vital facet to any corporate strategy. The impact that the gig economy makes on America’s workforce will continue to be analyzed – but one thing that is clear is that it offers many benefits.
Flexibility might be the most attractive benefit to the gig economy. Even employers who don’t hire freelance or contract positions are adopting flexible work environments and telecommuting options to keep up with the desires and needs of today’s workforce. When it comes to maintaining or attracting the best talent, it’s important to accommodate and find solutions for those involved. While businesses continue to evolve, there are more options than ever for individuals who want more flexibility.
The flexibility offered by alternative employment situations provide more autonomy in when, where, how long, and the way people work. Technology also supports the elimination of geographic boundaries. Employers are now able to pick from top performing candidates around the world to fill specific needs.
Pay and Hours
Just like having the liberty of deciding how, when, and where to work, gig workers are also deciding how much they make based on the difficulty of their projects or industry of work they choose to enter. The amount of time gig workers want to put into their projects factor into how much they make as well. Income can be offset by the priceless time and freedom to shift between life and work such as vacation time, extended leave of absences, having the ability to take kids to and from school, and much more.
Student loans, credit card debt, stay-at-home parents, retirement funds, and single-parent incomes are just some of the many reasons why people go after additional income. The Federal Reserve reports, though generally a supplemental source of income, three in 10 adults work in the gig economy.
Over half of Americans plan to be working over the age of 65 and most state the reason is not having enough money to retire comfortably. To speed up the retirement process, people are turning to side gigs or encore careers to help save for retirement. Moreover, because freelance or contract work can often be done in addition to traditional employment, people are leaning toward this type of work to help tackle financial obligations such as loan payoffs, daycare expenses, medical bills, and many more.
Safety Cushion/Job Security
Did you know that on average, people change jobs 10-15 times during the course of his or her career? Gone are the days of starting a job right out of high school and retiring from the same company 40+ years later. With the increase in job hopping today, there is a strong realization of the financial risk presented when you leave a job without a new opportunity lined up. Gig workers have the opportunity to diversify their work with a fair amount of ease. It can certainly take some extra effort to create relationships that generate consistent work, but once established, the range of work and freedom to take on opportunities available make it much easier to let go of an unfulfilling job.
Higher Productivity/Job Satisfaction
Unfortunately, staying in an unsatisfactory job is more common among those working in a traditional work environment. Although traditional jobs may provide a more stable income, fulfilling jobs offer other incentives that for some, outweigh monetary benefits. It has been found that the brain works remarkably better when people feel positive and enthusiastic, making happiness vital to a productive working environment. Economists at the University of Warwick studied the correlation between satisfaction in the workplace and productivity and found that happiness leads to a 12% increase in productivity, and unhappy workers were found to be 10% less productive.
If financial motivations aren’t enough to make an employee happy, it’s easy to recognize why people are turning to alternative work to gain satisfaction. Gig workers are able to follow their passions throughout their careers by easily maneuvering from one role to another. These opportunities also offer more exposure to entirely new industries and career paths. Employers are trying to offer more fulfilling benefits by evaluating and setting goals based on creativity, efficiency, and productivity - rather than time spent at work. Gig workers thrive under these parameters. Having the flexibility and capability to work remotely or at one’s convenience through a job in the gig economy eliminates driving commutes, reduces stress, and ultimately, develops higher work satisfaction that leads to greater productivity.
Challenges of Working in the Gig Economy
Just like traditional jobs, working in the gig economy has its benefits along with its inevitable challenges. Difficulties that gig workers face range from the stigmas associated, unpredictable work, and lack of employee benefits.
All gig workers want to be full-time employees... Gig jobs don’t pay well... You must be an Uber driver if you work in the gig economy... Freelancers just can’t find a traditional job…
Stigmas surrounding the gig economy are real but are starting to change. Many gig workers are thriving and employers are noticing the unique attributes they can bring to a job. Depending on the situation, contractors or freelancers are usually “self-employed” or 1099 employees. Those who are self-employed are seen as “out-of-the-box” thinkers. While they work especially well when they’re able to operate as their own boss, concern may be raised when put in situations where they have to report to someone else. Those that value the contributions these individuals offer know that they bring important skills such as independent working, self-motivation, creativity, and more.
A perk of a nine-to-five, traditional job is knowing exactly when to show up to work and where to show up… every day… for an infinite number of months or years. This might make a gig worker squirm, but the counter-reality for them is not always knowing from where and when their next project will come. This may cause discomfort and unwarranted stress in the lives of some people working in the gig economy.
Lack of Benefits
The greatest concern people have in regard to working in the gig economy is the lack of employee benefits and rights. Current debates are being had over the rights of gig workers and whether they should be allotted the same as traditional employees. Bills are being sent to state legislatures to find ways to classify gig workers as employees or independent contractors. If this is passed, companies would be accountable for providing benefits and be under legal scrutiny to uphold laws on employee rights and regulations. Although this might sound like a positive change, there are downfalls to the bills being put into place. The result could be less flexibility for both employers and gig workers.
Working in the Gig Economy Via a Staffing Agency
Many people who work in the gig economy provide highly specialized or niche service offerings. This type of work has been scrutinized because of the lack of benefits it provides in regard to health insurance, 401k plans, vacation and sick leave, and more. However, individuals can find the same level of autonomy working with an employment service or staffing firm that can help place people in temporary or temporary-to-permanent job roles.
How Goodwill Can Help Your Job Search
Goodwill TalentBridge is a recruiting, staffing, and placement service that provides customized strategic solutions. These solutions include traditional search and placement, staffing an additional shift or project, providing seasonal work, and full-scale on-site management. Goodwill also offers the guidance for students and those aging in the workforce to keep their skills well-rounded to fulfill employers’ specific needs.
There is a prominent skills gap in the marketplace from what people are learning in school to what needs to be applied in a work setting. All jobs, particularly those in manufacturing, are changing rapidly because of technology. This gap in necessary skills has caused employers to go to new measures in order to acquire the talent needed. These tactics include partnering with colleges to put the necessary curriculum in place, outsourcing jobs overseas, or putting additional training practices into place. Unfortunately, all options can lead to an increase in resources needed to run a business efficiently. By working with a staffing service like Goodwill, employers don’t have to waste valuable time, money, and resources, and workers are put into positions where they are equipped with the essential skills needed.
For some, the benefits of working in the gig economy outweigh the risks. It’s clear that the relationship between employees and employers is changing rapidly. Expectations on how and where is no longer being entirely dictated by an employer. Individuals that make up the gig economy have found that a great place to work can be created - not just joined. Whether the gig economy is here to stay, work habits are evolving and what’s most notable is the wide variety of avenues for individuals to choose as a means of earning income.
Whether you are looking for your next gig or need to fill positions within your organization, Goodwill TalentBridge provides the assistance needed to get started. Click here to learn more about TalentBridge services.