How the gig economy is changing the nature of work

A poll on full-time employees, which asked how many wanted to be their own boss, would possibly have the majority responding in the affirmative. And that is precisely what the gig economy is doing: advancing the cause of being one’s own boss!

A large number of workers testing the waters, who are already in full-time jobs, are also engaged in ‘side jobs’. The latter also offers employees freedom from a single source of income from a single employer. One survey shows that many do not share their side activity with their full-time job managers, while another survey reveals that managers who are in the know think that employees involved in side jobs are enhancing their skills in other areas and that these could be beneficial to the primary employer.

According to a recent World Bank report, of an estimated 57.3 million freelancers in the United States, two-thirds actually hold full-time jobs and have opted to participate in the gig sector to supplement their incomes. Digital-based marketplace platforms are becoming one of the key enablers for gig work as they provide a pool of clients that one can work for flexibly from any location. It is estimated that there are over 2,300 gig aggregators and online crowdsourcing platforms. Of these, Amazon Mechanical Turk, and Upwork, among others, are said to be large-scale and most popular. A McKinsey Global Institute report says that ‘online talent platforms’ would drive up growth in the global job market and could add $2.7 trillion to the global GDP.

A range of functions are being tapped on these platforms, including interior design, coaching, tuitions, health and fitness, and counselling, which appeal to professionals who do not want to be tied-down to full-time jobs. On the other hand, companies wanting to focus on their key roles of manufacturing products or selling services are shifting their non-core jobs such as design, marketing and human resources to gig workers. The hiring of on-demand talent is known as shift-staffing.

What is clear is that the commitment to full-time work is being enticed by short-term multiple work commitments. Also the concept of traditional work is changing. The gig sector has brought in a feeling of greater flexibility, freedom and personal fulfilment in our work. In allowing more control and autonomy over career paths, the gig economy offers professionals a way out of the feeling of being trapped. Additionally, one can work towards building one’s own brand rather than someone else’s, which is seen as a highly motivating factor for potential and current gig workers.

New research in the United Kingdom shows that those engaged in the gig sector score higher in a range of psychological well-being measures than workers in the mainstream economy. Noticeably, workers in this sector report a boost in self-confidence, concentration and self-worth as they feel more empowered, engaged and in greater control of their work lives. The gig sector has proved to be a blessing for those unable to find full-time paid jobs too.

Clearly, the gig economy has debunked the notion of a ‘job for life’.