The Gig Economy and Reaching for Freedom

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The “Gossamer Parachute.”

The Gig Economy and Reaching for FreedomIn this proclaimed “War for Talent,” many talented workers are pulling the rip chord on a Gossamer parachute. Who doesn’t want to be free from the confines of organizational structure and inside politics that can overly influence an individual’s quality of life?

In the “War for talent,” HR departments should examine some of the benefits that the gig economy offers and consider identifying those employees who may be better suited for an independent partnership role rather than the traditional corporate employee paradigm.

“Approximately 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe have left the relatively stable confines of organizational life — sometimes by choice, sometimes not — to work as independent contractors. “Harvard Business Review

We all know the workplace employee-employer relationship has changed from a lifelong marriage to an almost “one-night stand” (let’s call it 18-month infatuation). There are many causes for this shift as well as many economic repercussions (How can banks make mortgage loans when long-term employment is a rarity nowadays?). However, there is a very interesting trend that has taken hold and is beginning to become a real game changer. I am talking about the gig economy with the match of talented tech workers looking for a different work-life relationship.

…“knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy.” McKinsey Report

The gig economy is in transition as better trained, and experienced employees get tossed out-or opt out of the worker bee world. Indeed, a certain new option for meeting the balance of work-life is attracting more talented workers away from the “stability” of large corporations. With the knowledge economy, the real asset is in brain power and experience. No company politics -a real negative hurdle for many talented people-and total commitment to the exclusion of almost anything else have become real factors in “driving” talent into the gig economy. Let the large corporations provide the training, experience, and contacts and then build a website, a high-speed internet connection, and you are ready to go into business. Yes, the gig economy is a different backdrop and perhaps precursor to the coming Blade Runner marginal economy, but it does offer other real benefits such as mobility, control of one’s own time, constant freedom to pursue ideas and new opportunities and a real opportunity to learn about new niches and specialty niches that can provide some significant competitive advantages to the big players.

Studies of gig workers reflect that most at first feel disconnected and miss the structure of the employer but most of the successful gig workers learn to develop a strategy that helps them realize the benefits of independence and empowerment. According to Harvard Business Review, “they cultivate four types of connections — to place, routines, purpose, and people — that help them endure the emotional ups and downs of their work and gain energy and inspiration from their freedom.”

Place.

Create a space that represents you. Don’t just make use of the spare bedroom or an isolated corner of the home. Make a place that reflects who you are and where you feel comfortable and not confined. Organize your workspace for privacy and quiet for confidential phone/Skype conversations. Indeed, set up a home office protocol when confidentiality is required. And, it should incorporate more than a closed door. Often, when working as a solo practitioner, it is too easy to get too locked into the work and not come up for air. Take breaks. Take a walk. Go to the gym (not a home gym).

Routines.

Studies show that establishing routines help to promote focus. In fact, some gig workers find that they are night owls and having a schedule that allows them to best utilize their natural inclinations can really add value to not only their lives but also their productivity. Being able to have the flexibility to arrange a work-life balance is a powerful thing to have, but only if the consultant has the discipline to not let either work or pleasure interfere with getting the job done as well as keeping the pipeline flowing.

Purpose.

One of the important catchwords being tossed about in the management circles is “Corporate Culture.” But what if your idea of cultural values are different from that being set and cultivated by corporate management? Indeed, many millennials, as well as corporate dropouts, find a cultural culture can actually stifle interest and productivity on the job. Being able to define your personal and business purposes and goals is an important factor in success as an independent “gigster.” One of the important thing to keep in mind as a gigster is that you will network with all types of people and need to be a good listener to know how to navigate successful “chat/Skype” relationships. In fact, becoming a business entity allows gigsters to be their own leaders, and that implies a certain personality type; one that can make self-demands and accept full responsibility for the deliverables. For some personalities, being able to hide in plain sight is not an option when being a gigster and requires a sense of entrepreneurial purpose with measurable goals.

People.

This is a big one. As most human beings are social creatures and have a tendency to become tribal, gigsters can become socially isolated. The office no longer provides an instant social context. Successful independents learn how to cultivate a social context that satisfies their particular needs. Joining clubs, playing team sports, getting involved in community action groups or other group activities can not only fulfill those social needs but also allows the gigster to take advantage of the ability to maximize the work-life balance that suits the individual. As important, the benefits of the gig economy is the ability to avoid all the workplace politics and stress that can be found in many workplaces.

The Takeaway

The “War for talent” should examine some of the benefits of that the gig economy offers and consider identifying those employees that may be best suited for a partnership role rather than the traditional corporate paradigm. Some key positions may actually become more productive as independent contractors than employees. For example, an employee may offer certain special skills that are not always needed and spend time working on less productive tasks while receiving pay for their unique skills that may not be utilized. Likewise, independent contractors like to have repeat customers but also allow for them to pursue their own development. It could work for some jobs and some personalities.

On the other hand, employees who feel confined or unappreciated now have a different choice. No more need to become self-oppressed by not having a good fit with their employer’s management style or corporate culture. The gig economy is growing rapidly, especially for those with specific skills. Can you imagine the number of new ideas, products, and services that may materialize from the garages of the future? Technology, experimentation and individual initiative free from the constraints of groupthink and politics could become a powerful force for change.

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