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The world is changing and so is the workplace. One reason is due to the emergence of the gig economy. As the gig economy continues to gain traction in the workforce, the end of traditional employment appears to be nigh. However, not everyone agrees with this, suggesting that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
So, what’s the reality, and how does coworking fit into the equation? Let’s find out!
What exactly is the gig economy? According to Investopedia, the gig economy is one in which “flexible jobs are commonplace and companies lean toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.” This trend has completely upended certain industries (think Uber and the taxi industry, Airbnb and the hotel industry), found a home among creatives (copywriters, graphic designers), and can really be utilized to hire out any type of gig (online marketplaces Fiverr and Upwork allow people to sell their services for any type of need).
Forbes states that over a third of U.S. workers (36 percent, or ~57 million people) are in the gig economy. They estimate that as recent as next year, that number could jump to half the U.S. workforce! By these numbers, the traditional form of employment in which one gets a degree, finds a job at a company in their field, works for a few decades, and then happily retires, is shrinking. Younger workers are now more likely to jump from job to job; in fact, many companies see this kind of movement as a positive, indicating one’s hunger for more and desire to grow.
It’s perhaps this type of worker that Michael Kearns at Toptal is referring to when he points out a different kind of gig economy, one with a flashier designation: the “talent economy.” In the standard gig economy, he states that “work is commoditized and the platform is the differentiator.” But in the talent economy, “the talent is the differentiator and the platform is an enabler.”
In other words, the talent economy is composed of individuals who are experts in their fields, using their abilities and skill sets to engage with a variety of projects among different companies. Instead of relying on internal workers, companies hire out certain tasks to external talent, which then works with the in-house team. A 2014 survey conducted by Deloitte discovered that just over half of executives anticipated the use of external talent to go up in the next 5 years. Toptal conducted their own survey in 2017 in which the number increased to over 76%. There’s no reason to think it won’t continue to rise.
Talent is drawn to this model because of its flexibility, wealth of opportunities, ability to work on projects they themselves find enjoyable and appealing, and the chance to work remotely, whether at home, in coworking spaces, or any other non-traditional means.
The more we learn about the rise of the gig economy, the more clear it becomes that the flexibility of coworking spaces seems to naturally map directly onto the flexibility of freelancers and independent contractors who are working within the gig economy.
For employers, hiring freelancers has benefits that are quite similar to the benefits offered by coworking spaces for the freelancers themselves: short-term contracts and certain cost savings. Employers can hire freelancers with specific skill sets to work on particular projects. They don’t need to create another internal role that they know won’t be sustainable. Similarly, coworking spaces offer short-term leasing contracts. If the project unexpectedly ends, those working in a coworking space aren’t locked in for three years or more. In terms of certain cost savings, employers don’t need to provide training or software to freelancers and independent contractors. Coworking spaces like TechSpace have a similar benefit in that members need not worry about obtaining their own technological infrastructure or hiring reception services; all that and more comes with the space!
While the gig economy is clearly not going anywhere – and will likely continue to attract more talent – traditional offices are not actually going anywhere, either. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that as of mid-2017, the number of gig workers in the U.S. is really only 1% of the total workforce. It’s true that traditional offices offer some efficiencies, a general sense of stability, and benefits like health insurance and PTO that those working in the gig economy must handle themselves. But even given that, at the end of the day, a traditional office space will not be the right fit for every business – including many traditional corporations.
The world is changing, and the digital landscape in particular is changing more swiftly than ever. Ultimately, more and more traditional employers will adapt to include a growing number of freelancers on their teams. This will mean shifting office strategies, including the ability to work from home, as well as the opportunity to work in nearby coworking spaces.
After all, studies show that coworking spaces make employees more productive. If companies are adjusting to the future of workplaces, it only makes sense that in doing so they will seek out strategies that will not only enhance their own accommodation, but also the happiness, well-being, and productive energy of their employees. The world is changing, the workers are changing, and if executed properly, companies can use the changing tides to flow together for an even more cohesive workspace than ever before.
If you’re running a traditional office but looking for ways to change and grow along with your employees and talent, a coworking space might be right for you. Book a tour at a TechSpace near you to find out!