The gig economy is changing the way that we work, whether we like it or not. Here’s what it means for your company and the offices of the future.
While the institution of the ‘job’ and the history of the 40-hour work week make it seem like what work is and can be is set in stone, the reality is that our understanding of work has never been consistent, and there’s always been a constant shift in how we classify, divide, and make use of labor, especially as technology and constant innovation brings about faster and faster change.
Yet while the changes in our understanding of work are constant, there’s one major shift that has had everyone talking for the entirety of the 2010s – the shift towards a gig-based economy.
Over the course of the last decade, that shift has not been fully realized. The truth is that the gig economy still only accounts for a fraction of the nation’s workers. Yet hidden beneath that data is another, far more important fact:
While few people rely on gigs to survive and fund their daily bread, an ever-increasing number of people are taking side-jobs, doing gigs on top of traditional work.
It’s impossible to argue that the gig economy has not changed work as we know it – but it’s important to figure out what that change means.
What is the Gig Economy?
The gig economy is a phenomenon largely based on the ever-growing success of the freelancer lifestyle as made possible through leaps of progress in personal computing and the social integration of the internet into both daily life, and the marketplace.
The rise of tech startups and countless other businesses has given way to a completely new form of work characterized by a lack of proper employee-status, but a much wider range of freedoms. These include:
Rather than entering into long-term contracts with monthly salaries, gig workers enter into short-term contracts or simply earn money on a task-per-task basis, with the ability to opt in and out of work at nearly a moment’s notice.
Using the analogy of a bundle sticks which determine the factors that make up the relationship between an employee and an employer, a gig worker is someone who holds more sticks than their employer (having more freedoms in matters of choosing when and where to work, what to charge, and so on).
The gig economy does not exist solely on the basis of tech firms and phone apps, but also exists in the form of countless contractors and self-branded freelancers who work independently with various companies for short periods of time.
In some cases, the gig economy has even led to the full formation of fully-fledged professional teams composed of individual freelancing professionals: ephemeral pseudo-companies set up to complete a massive and complex project before disbanding, much like film crews.
A New Way Forward
This new way of working represents a much more fluid interpretation of what it means to work and calls for a completely new understanding of the relationship between a company and the people it employs, and the subsequent rules of engagement.
The benefits are clear:
- With more freedom, workers have the ability to prosper and compete on an entirely new level
- They can take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to them through social networks and various networking platforms to carefully curate and manage a personal brand, on a level never before possible.
But it’s not gone off entirely without a hitch, either, as many are concerned about how the prevalence of gig-based work might affect the social safety net that several generations of Americans worked hard to create in most forms of traditional labor across the country. Because it’s a nascent economy, there’s very little set in stone, and much can still happen.
Coworking in the Gig Economy
Greater freedom in the relationship between companies and workers contributes to new ways of working, particularly fueling the growth coworking spaces. These ‘shared offices’ have been growing throughout the world since the turn of the century, and they have been taking off more so now than ever.
There are several reasons coworking meshes so well with the growing gig economy, and why one feeds directly into the other. While the gig economy is fueled by an increased need for flexibility and self-determination in a post-recession market, built by a generation that has experienced a volatile economy and strives for greater independence from companies and employers, coworking represents the continued human need for a community.
There’s no denying that telecommunications have paved the way for a completely new way to work together. Teams are forming across oceans, and projects are coordinating between continents. Yet there are still benefits of physically working side-by-side with professionals you trust and admire. This is beneficial even if they aren’t working in the same field, or in the same company.
Coworking has paved the way for a completely new arrangement in the workplace where employees from different companies and freelancers working by themselves can come together to work independently, collaborate by choice, or simply share in an atmosphere driven by the will to be productive and work towards an interesting and exciting future.
The Offices of the Future
While coworking is scheduled to continue growing massively throughout the world, particularly as a way for freelancers and independent contractors to continue to benefit from having a place to focus on their work and be away from home, and as a way for companies both big and small to massively reduce overhead, the traditional private office is still here to stay.
But it won’t be completely unscathed. Coworking has a lot it can teach other office spaces, particularly about productivity and learning to accommodate workers in different ways to help them individually maximize how best they work. Some people work better collaboratively, while others prefer competition.
Some need total silence and a space to call their own, while others like the white noise and work well alongside others. As we move away from standard offices, unhealthy cubicles, and setups that are increasingly leading to worker illness, burnout, lifestyle issues and early deaths, the offices of the future must focus on improving the efficiency of the individual by better catering to their needs.
Common Questions About This New Trend
What is the Gig Economy?
The gig economy is a phenomenon largely based on the ever-growing success of the freelancer lifestyle. Rather than entering into long-term contracts with monthly salaries, gig workers enter into short-term contracts or simply earn money on a task-per-task basis,
What are the Benefits of a Gig Economy?
Workers have the ability to prosper and compete on an entirely new level, and they can take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to them through social networks and various networking platforms to carefully curate and manage a personal brand.
How Does the Gig Economy Affect Office Space?
Greater freedom in the relationship between companies and workers contributes to new ways of working, particularly fueling the growth coworking spaces.