The world is churning toward a future in which freelance work, not full-time employment, is the norm. By 2020, Intuit estimates that 43 percent of American workers will file 1099s. That statistic alone might make it sound like the gig economy is headed for nonstop growth, but if organizations don’t embrace the needs of the real professionals behind those numbers, the gig economy will collapse.
It’s easy to see how society has arrived at this point. People like to control their own workflows, and remote work helps make that a possibility. Now that digital tools allow remote workers to collaborate on projects from anywhere, video conference in an instant, and contribute during the traditional workday or in the middle of the night, barriers that once prevented remote work have all but disappeared. In fact, 70 percent of global workers do their jobs remotely at least once per week, according to IWG research.
Three trends are fueling the rise, and the evolution, of the gig economy. First, more companies are transforming into digital entities, which have greater needs for remote workers than businesses in other industries. Second, software options are growing more integrated. Small businesses now have access to tools that were reserved for enterprises just a decade ago, which opens a much wider range of opportunities for remote workers. Finally, these trends are encouraging businesses to lean harder on elastic infrastructures like co-working spaces and less on owned office space.
Before long, more workers will get certified in their skill sets and pick out jobs on the fly. The workforce of the future will get together at WeWork hubs, take care of their collective needs, then go their separate ways. Impermanence will replace stability — and unless companies look beyond hiring gig workers for tedious tasks only, it will be difficult to navigate that shift.