Should You Embrace the Gig Economy?

June 8, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016
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The phrase “gig economy” has become something of a buzzword in recent months. Used to denote the changing nature of work, specifically the growing trend of people seeking more flexible employment, it holds strong implications for perceptions of the traditional working day and working environment. The gig economy induced shift in desired working arrangements has lead to an increasing willingness by employers to accommodate flexible working hours and spaces. But if workers don’t have to be physically present in your business plan, what are the limits when you’re considering hiring new staff and how can their absence impinge on your business?

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This article presents the advantages of the gig economy and where to exercise healthy caution.

Expand your search for the perfect employee to the globe

For employees, one of the most attractive prospects of the gig economy is the option of working from home, or simply any location with an internet connection. For employers, an unexpected advantage of the gig economy can be how it transforms the hiring process.There’s no doubting the fact that specific talents are difficult to source during the typical recruitment operation. Not only will you be competing with other companies who are also looking for the best person for the job, but you’re going to be forced to ignore the skilled individuals who lie miles beyond your search criteria.

With probability dictating that the top professionals are most likely well outside your traditional local recruitment pool, why should you have to restrict the radius for finding the ideal candidate? By making your search a world-wide one, the likelihood of finding the perfect match for your vacancy is dramatically increased.

The positive effect of remote workers on your business

At first, the idea of entrusting the future of your organisation to people who you may never meet in person can be difficult to rationalise. But it’s an idea that has proved fruitful for many, and it’s backed up with a lot of encouraging research. One study in particular, lead by Harvard Business Review, was conducted to explore how remote working, or telecommuting as it’s commonly known, affects businesses. The results urged employers to seriously consider allowing more employees to work from home, citing increased productivity and a significant reduction in company expenditures as an outcome.

Other promising reports on remote working include data from a study by Gallup (a company who share research and solutions to help international organisations). Their results showed that remote workers logged more hours of work than their office-based equivalents – 4 extra hours a week. They also discovered that remote workers were 4% more engaged with their work and felt a stronger connection with their company.

Savings

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image courtesy of GotCredit

Other important findings from the aforementioned studies included huge savings on furniture and space. After all, running an office is expensive enough with electricity bills and equipment to consider. As a startup or small business, one of the immediate financial benefits can be the savings made through not having to spend vast amounts on a working space. Not only will you save money, but you will save time too. And if you choose to employ remote workers exclusively, you need never worry about having to find an office space.

You and your employees will also not have to suffer time wasted on long commutes (which could actually be contributing to negative health effects). Despite not meeting face to face, you will be able to get in touch with all of your staff at a moment’s notice with free tools like Google Hangouts. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to present a professional image without an office, virtual office providers like i2 Office can guarantee a prestigious address as well as an international mail forwarding service.

The risks 

The gig economy, while having clear benefits, does entail some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of. Firstly, when employees aren’t required to attend a shared working space, they could choose unsuitable environments to conduct their working hours. Despite statistics showing that overall productivity improves with a staff of telecommuters, that doesn’t preclude the possibility that some individuals might encounter the precise reverse. So, if you have a small business, or only a few telecommuters, you need to ensure that the remote workers are meeting their targets. 

Another aspect to consider is socialising. Although a lot of socialising occurs within the office which is certainly not always positive (think distractions like interruptions and office politics), according to some workplace experts it’s an essential and important part of the working experience. Dr. Maynard Brusman (Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach) says that “the modern workplace has become a community center, or a ‘home away from home’ where people get many of their social needs met. Neuroscience research supports the idea that our brains are hardwired to connect with others. We spend so much of our time at work, that it’s natural that we develop relationships in the workplace.”

Although you might wonder what that has to do with how well your business performs, he adds that “it can help when influencing and persuading others is needed to achieve common goals”. This leads to the possibility that telecommuting could be responsible for a downturn in company creativity. According to research conducted by Professor Richard D. Arvey, Ph.D. nothing compares to face to face meetings that allow valuable “side-line” conversations among participants which can help to accomplish various tasks and duties.

Get the best of both worlds

With frequent and clearly communicated expectations made at numerous points throughout projects, there should be no disconnect between you and your team of remote workers. Even if some of your team members are working in different time-zones, you can always stipulate that they must be available at specific points in your working day. In order to combat the negative aspects that come with working in isolation, you can encourage employees to work in coworking spaces where they will at least have collaboration areas and access to other professionals.