The Gig Economy Can Be A Win-Win Situation For Both Workers And The Job Market

Freelance has become the new normal, and both individuals and companies are no longer afraid of making the jump. 

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the traditional workplace, whose foundations go back to the 1940s, has gone through some pretty striking changes, with everyone wondering about what will unfold to replace the nine-to-five jobs that we are familiar with. The answer is actually very simple, and in fact, it’s not a very new trend either- gig work, also known as side hustles or freelance and contingent work, seems set to be a key part of “the new normal.” 

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Now, the world is not a stranger to the gig economy. The early creators of the term were actually jazz musicians in 1915, who referred to their performances as “gigs.” The term “gig economy” was coined in 2009 by former The New Yorker editor Tina Brown to describe “a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies, and part-time bits and pieces, while they transacted in a digital marketplace.” The concept found itself being heavily presented in companies like Uber, Airbnb, and others, and that led to the further growth (and appeal) of the gig economy.  

Side hustles were already available in the market prior to 2019; yet, little to no interest was attributed to them as most individuals favored stability over freedom. Back then, most employees preferred to work regular jobs, punching in from 9-to-5, regardless of their productivity, and receiving a paycheck at the end of the month to make ends meet. But then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, which led to the loss of jobs for many, the furlough of others, and the enforcement of working from home for the rest. Stability was no longer rewarding, and employees had to opt for other options to sustain their lives.  

Related: "The Great Resignation," And The Future Of The Workplace

This is where gig work came in handy. The newly unemployed and readily available in the job market were able to directly place themselves, furloughed employees hunted temporary jobs to fill them until they return back to work, and employees working from home discovered the flexibility behind having a side hustle. It was a win-win situation for both the job market and the employees. Fast forward to 2021, the gig economy is still on the rise, and there seem to be no turning back. According to a study conducted by Gartner, 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.  

The rise of the gig economy has brought with it new trends to the workplace and the job market at large- here’s a look at just three of them:  

1. Work shifts from fixed to flexible Freedom matters for both sides of the coin, businesses and individuals. These days, both interests of companies and employees align through flexible employment. For instance, businesses considering freelance jobs are taking advantage of hiring contractual on-demand experts for certain roles that are hard to fill in-house. Freelancers are not paid the benefits that a regular employee has, and they are also not subject to strict employment guidelines- they are there for a fixed term, and not forever. On the other hand, freelancers do not work from 9 to 5, and they hence enjoy a certain degree of flexibility at work. They are there to complete projects/short-term assignments, and their focus is on deliverables rather than time spent, and if they are also employed elsewhere, they appreciate a supplemental income to their regular salary.  

2. The growth of on-demand talent platforms On-demand talent platforms (ODT) are not new to the market. Some are widely known and profitable, and others are struggling to survive. When people moved to mass remote working, many started searching for alternative jobs, just in case a job loss is on the way. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Fiverr, and Upwork flourished, and both companies and talents interacted more. From startups to well-established companies, every business posted job ads, and talents started applying. The opportunity that such platforms provided through which anyone sitting behind their couch can apply to any job in any part of the world -and get paid through the medium of this platform- is just mind-boggling. The beauty of it is that it is actually simple, and it works. This surge in interest in ODT platforms has been rumored to encourage LinkedIn to launch its own gig marketplace. With LinkedIn boasting of the greatest number of professional users, an ODT platform of its own will allow the side hustle market gain greater accessibility to a larger audience, globally. 

Related: Finding Jobs And Building Careers In The Age Of COVID-19 And Beyond

3. Hiring for skills and hiring fast Remember when hiring was subject to many barriers and biases, such as degrees, years of experience, and so on? Today, opportunities that open through certain employment platforms are fully focused on required skills only. Take, for example, a business that creates a job ad on an ODT platform for a web developer with experience in, say, Rust, a programming language. When receiving the applications, the hiring manager doesn’t care or consider neither the person’s name, race, gender, years of experience, languages, or degrees, but only the experience that this applicant has in coding in Rust, and hire them accordingly. Skills are assets, and this is where individuals now are investing post pandemic. The more valuable skills one has, the better their chances at landing a side hustle for additional financial support. 

Adding to that, hiring freelancers removes other obstacles in the hiring process. Employers do not invest more time than needed in the hiring process, and they are also free from certain liabilities of full-time employment, such as benefits, insurance, pension, etc. The same goes for freelancers, who also do not have to study the company when applying and consider all aspects of the job, but simply send their proposals, and share their samples ahead of a potential interview. If both match, contracts are created, and the work starts. Removing layers makes the exercise easier and faster in a market that is rapidly changing. 

Gig work is currently revolutionizing jobs. Freelance has become the new normal, and both individuals and companies are no longer afraid of making the jump. While this article sheds light on major trends impacted by this model, a lot is still left to be discovered, and many aspects need to be explored, including the legislation around gig economy, freelancer benefits, knowledge transfer, freelancer growth, and training and development needs. Even though the current benefits of the gig economy outweigh its problems, it is a matter of time before we will know whether it is here to stay for the long term, and whether it will replace the traditional workplace, or simply just move along in parallel with it. 

Related: Paradigm Shift: Developing The MENA Region's Gig Economy

Jana Haounji

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Jana Haounji is a seasoned recruiter with diversified experience across different industries, fast-moving and slow-paced, from retail, construction, academia, non-governmental organizations, and recently, startups. She is passionate about human relations, and striving when building connections. Throughout her career, she managed to streamline the recruitment life-cycle in companies she worked at and implemented industry-specific best practices. Jana is a certified HR professional by the Society for Human Resource Management, and she also holds a master’s degree in business administration. Her areas of expertise are in digital recruitment, interviews, and HR in the workplace.