Gig economy and SMBs: would your employees ditch the 9-to-5?

to gig or not to gig decision

Not sure about your company entering the gig economy? What does the term even mean?

Think about your former college classmates: their needs, values, and lifestyles are probably very different from yours. When a size doesn’t fit all, then the only solution is to be flexible.

For many businesses and professionals, this means switching out full time employment in favor of freelance and on-demand collaboration methods – the founding pillars of gig economy.

The benefits of gig work go beyond a non-traditional work schedule. The pandemic has made evident that home offices can be easily made permanent workplaces (hello Zoom mullets!).  But even more significantly, on-demand platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, and gig economy companies like Uber and AirBnB have completely transformed the way people plan their careers.

Transitioning to these new ways of working isn’t an easy or obvious choice for many. On the one side, there is  the flexibility and self-sufficiency, and on the other side the risk and unpredictability.

So how do you know if the gig economy is right for your team? Should you start offering these new ways of collaboration in your business? Read below to learn more about gig work, its benefits and who can do it.

Career benefits of gig work

Before the Internet age, people used to find side jobs in Help Wanted boards (remember those?) and even the occasional lamp post. Nowadays, finding a gig is as simple as using an app and clicking on a new job.

As a business, you are now competing with these apps that are extremely easy to use. On-demand workforce platforms have easy onboarding and simplified payroll. As the positions are short-term, the employers on these platforms don’t bother with long and complex hiring processes of interviews and trials.

You may wonder – why on earth would people prefer the unreliable flow of gigs to your steady offering of 9-to-5 and a monthly salary?

The are many reasons why people may prefer a gig work contract instead:

  • Time-convenience: Choose when and how much to work.
  • Variety of jobs: Work within your own industry, become a driver, or even pick up a random task.
  • Flexible wages: Get paid as soon as you’re done!
  • Work/life balance: Manage your schedule and take gigs in your spare time, or wedge work between classes, childcare, and hobbies.
  • Learning opportunities: Get ready for the next stage in your career by acquiring marketable skills and developing them through real-world practice.

work from home funny

Who is likely to prefer gig work?

If you thought gig work is only for kids or unemployed people, think again. There are many professionals who will only accept freelance jobs, and will remain out of your reach if your only HR offer is a full-time contract. This is especially critical to consider when recruiting for positions that can be performed remotely, and you are competing for the same talent with companies worldwide.

Are gig workers the ideal employees for your company? Take the leap and join the gig economy and provide flexible working conditions to attract top talent. The profiles below will give you an idea of who is a gig worker nowadays.

Mothers (and Fathers too!)

For Becky Willis, writer for the site Mom Blog Society, gig work offers great benefits for mothers:

“For moms of all ages, not just those who are young, it means the potential to earn income and leverage your talent, skills, and experience in a career — with the flexibility to be a mom to your children and family,” she states.

New and not-so-new parents may benefit the most from a flexible schedule and remote work. Some of the reasons why mothers and fathers choose to start a freelance career are keeping a career active, being closer to their children or even testing being a full-time stay at home parent (a career on its own right).

mom gig worker

Seniors

The golden years are getting longer thanks to the advancements in science and technology. This gives seniors and retirees the choice to go back to the workforce on their own terms. Saskia Sickinger, intern researcher at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, states that despite the technological gap seniors are increasingly active in the gig economy:

“Seniors are the second largest group after millennials and they represent the demographic that is increasing at the fastest pace. Increasingly, available data shows more and more seniors and retirees working part-time and independently. Within the gig economy, seniors are increasingly flocking to online and app-based platforms,” she writes.

With a career now behind them, seniors can offer their proven know-how and transferable skills to younger teams. They can also provide insights thanks to their experience, and they are known to have a strong discipline in what they do.

Gen-Z

Gen-Z might be new to the job market, but they are the first digital native workers. Being young, they are willing to explore different career paths while also balancing their social lives and schoolwork. When Liz Segran—now senior writer for Fast Company—started her career in the midst of the 2009 recession, she worked  a series of internships and temp jobs.

“I felt like I was always hustling. But looking back, I feel fortunate that we now live in a time when employers don’t hold it against us if we hop between jobs early in our careers,” she says.

Having several gigs also allows students to earn more money and avoid debt, which given the current forecast of government-backed retirement funds, can be a way to guarantee their financial freedom in the long run.

People changing careers

There are several reasons why people decide to change careers later in life. Regardless of the reason, before trading a workplace for another, it is better to test the waters with a series of jobs within the new industry. Working gigs part-time also reduces the risk that changing a career entails while also providing extra income for when the switch finally takes place.

For budding entrepreneurs and potential freelancers, gig work provides a priceless opportunity to gather market research, network with new people, and tweak their potential products and services. In addition, temp jobs require workers to acquire business skills and be encouraged to do more self-training  as a 2019 freelancing report made by the Freelancers Union and Upwork describes:

“81% of freelancers find freelance business skills important to their work and would like additional training. The top three training areas they would like are: 1) networking 2) new skills in their field and 3) how to start and grow a freelance career.” the report states.

People re-entering the workforce

Health issues, care of relatives, and extended travel might require people to put their career on hold. Gig jobs can help these people to re-enter the workforce slowly or to keep their career active while other issues are the top priority.

A paper published in Harvard Business Review points out that the variety of gigs available has grown over the past years:

“Some of this growth reflects the emergence of ride-hailing and task-oriented service platforms, but a recent report by McKinsey found that knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy,” the authors explain.

covid delivery gig work

People looking for extra income

Having an extra paycheck can help many families to avoid credit cards and payday loans. A growing number of professionals do gig work instead of having a second job. But why? It turns out that gig work is more time-flexible compared to part-time positions, a quality that money-saving expert Kevin Ha appreciates::

“One of the things I enjoy about the current state of the side hustling world is just how easy it is to fit various side hustles into your day-to-day life,” he says.

Gig income is not linked to a certain calendar day (no more dreading the end of the month!), and payment can even be instant in some cases. Flex payments provides gig workers with the choice of doing more or less hours depending on their current availability.

Get started, get flexible!

As you can see, gig work has a lot of benefits for many people. Do you have the capacity to provide this level of flexibility to your collaborators? Learn more about the nuts and bolts of the gig economy, read our in-depth article on how to get started:  Contingent staffing – the ultimate guide and how to get started.

Don’t yet believe this is a thing? Check out the HBR podcast “Why Companies and Skilled Workers Are Turning to On-Demand Work”  with Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School, and Allison Bailey, senior partner at Boston Consulting Group.