5 trends radically transforming how we work

Stuart McLeod

If you’ve ever been an Uber or a less ethically challenged Lyft (and I’m guessing you have), you’ve seen the gig economy in action.

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 55 million people in the U.S. identify as gig workers, which is more than 35% of the total U.S. workforce. And that number is projected to jump to 43% by 2020.

In fact, gig work has become so mainstream that The Atlantic recently announced: “The workforce is getting Uberized.”

It’s not hard to see why. Urbanization is driving up housing prices and making city living unaffordable for most, and gig work allows employees to take their dream jobs without breaking the bank on rent. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to gig work for the promise of better work-life balance. And recent technologies like Zoom, Slack, and DropBox have helped make the gig life a reality.

But gig work isn’t always a choice.

During the recent government shutdown, for example, workers who might otherwise be found at the DMV signed up to drive Lyft and Uber in droves.

Boomers and other generations on the brink of retirement, meanwhile, are drawn to gig work because it provides a little extra income without a major time commitment. My mum rents out her small studio on Airbnb to supplement her pension.

Whatever the reason, one thing’s for sure: it isn’t going anywhere.

Gig work is a great opportunity for people to make extra money or pursue what they love. It’s also opened the door to a number of other alternative arrangements.

Here are a few of the most promising workforce trends to watch in the coming years:

1. The next evolution of freelance work

In the not-too-distant past, your career would go something like this: you’d graduate, land a steady job soon after, and work the same 9-to-5, Monday through Friday, for most of your adult life, and climb the company ladder until you retired.

But Millennials and Generation Z workers, who are just beginning to enter the workforce, have a very different idea of what a career entails. Because they came of age in the economic recession, younger employees became early users of on-demand platforms to pick up work to make rent.

Before long, freelance work was the norm.

Now, with the economy in better shape and unemployment rates at a low, it’s an employee’s job market. Companies are realizing that they have to start offering flexible schedules and remote options to compete. That puts employees in a position to be selective about the gigs they pick up, the hours they work, and the people they work with.

It’s also a boon to employers.

I was recently looking to hire a comedy writer for outbound campaigns at Karbon. Cold outbound emails are dying, so I wanted to improve the likelihood of success it up with interesting storylines and something that people will attach to. And with apps like Upwork, it was easy for me to find someone.

Today, there’s a freelancer out there for almost any job. And they’ll be more in demand as companies require new avenues to reach their customers.

2. Job sharing

A job share is exactly what it sounds like — when two employees cooperatively share the same job.

While only eight percent of companies say they’ve enacted formal job sharing programs, it’s on the rise — and there are definite benefits. When a company hires two people for the same job, they have the advantage of keeping their best and brightest employees when life events make full-time work impossible. They also gain two brains, two sets of enthusiasm and creativity, and two employees committed to their success.

On the flip side, employees gain flexibility — which is a key concern for Millennial and Gen Z workers in particular. They want to volunteer for causes, take up leisure activities, sports, and hobbies, and stay in touch with friends and family.

Employees with better work-life balance are also less stressed, which means they’ve got more brainpower to spend coming up with new ideas and contributing to company goals.

In other words, job sharing is a win-win.

3. The non-schedule schedule

Nine-to-five gets a bad rap, and it’s easy to see why.

It can be draining to sit in a fluorescent-lit cubicle for the majority of your waking hours. Offices can be dreary and distracting. Plus, there isn’t a ton of freedom. You can’t run errands during the day or take breaks to exercise. It’s easy to feel a little stuck.

But today, alternative scheduling is helping break the pattern. Instead of the standard work schedule, you can start work later, or work a longer day one day and a shorter day the next. As long as the work gets done, you have the flexibility to dictate your own schedules.

Another option is the compressed work schedule. In this arrangement, if the role requires that you work 40 hours a week, you can meet this with four 10-hour workdays, or three 13-hour workdays. This gives you more time with your family, time to pursue other interests, or travel. It’s also great for new parents re-entering the workforce.

Sometimes, it’s not just about working remotely — having more flexibility on the schedule itself is pretty freeing.

4. The continued rise of coworking and coliving spaces

You probably know at least a couple of people who’ve coworking spaces to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop.

Freelancers and remote workers love this kind of work arrangement — not only because it’s a great way to hang with like-minded professionals, but also because of the freedom it gives them. There are a number of other considerations, including:

Flexibility: Most coworking spaces have membership plans that range from daily passes to monthly or yearly memberships. They also allow you to change your location without much extra effort or cost.

Location: Most collaborative workspaces are situated in prime locations — expensive areas that freelancers normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

Productivity: Studies show people get more done when they’re surrounded by friends working toward a similar goal.

Access to knowledge: Co-working spaces are filled with hard-working, intelligent, and innovative people who are open to sharing what they know.

Amenities: If you rent your own office, you have to pay for utilities and supplies. With shared office space, however, utilities are included in the membership, and they often supply amenities like coffee, printers, mail services, discussion areas, and kitchen supplies.

Whether you’re a freelancer or you work remotely for your company, collaborative workspaces are a great way to get your creative juices flowing and make sure you don’t get cabin fever.

Co-living spaces take this trend one step further. The real estate startup Bungalow, for example, pairs early career professionals who need a home in booming cities. These cut down living costs associated with urbanization and allow young professionals to meet and mingle.

5. Alternative sources of income

I wouldn’t call it work exactly, but perhaps the instahusbands of the world do.

The rise of influencers, advertainment, appearances, and placements over the last decade is extraordinary. Millennials and Gen Z post-Millennials are now able to access income that was never available pre-social media (2006-ish).

Today, the traditional definition of work has been entirely turned on its head by brands paying the equivalent of a small house in Coonabarabran for a sponsored post on Instagram. And then us oldies all get a huge laugh out of the fallout that is documented so perfectly on the latest mobile devices. Anyway, I mock. Maybe I’m a little jealous. There’s some chance that my kids never have to get a real job.

But I constantly question the value to society of these types of roles.

In light of the remote workforce explosion, today’s companies need to broaden their outlook to find the right talent, wherever they live. Unless you raise $20 million during a series A and $80 million in a series B, they just won’t be able to attract the type of people that they need to push product quickly and gain momentum in Silicon Valley / San Francisco.

The workforce is changing — and fast — so companies have to get with the times.

Stuart McLeod

CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how knowledge workers collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.


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