The gig economy continues to grow as professionals see the opportunity to create the lifestyle they want. Employers can leverage this as a means to reduce costs and increase productivity in many areas of their business.
Call them gig workers, remote workers, telecommuters, and sometimes freelancers and contractors. The're all part of the gig economy, and it means that more of your “staff” will be people working remotely, often with flexible hours, and they may or may not be full-time employees.
The gig workforce, as a turn of phrase, may sound trendy, but don’t let that fool you. It is a transformative trend that is changing the way we do work in the Western hemisphere (and elsewhere around the globe).
Back in the 1990s, when the internet first became a force in the world, people often talked about how the future was “telecommuting.” We could cut down on traffic and save the environment by working from home through our computers. Resistance from bosses as well as some employees made the telecommuting dream far from reality at the time.
Tech companies were the first to start embracing remote work – until the very public banning of telecommuting at Yahoo! by new CEO Marissa Mayer when she was first hired in 2013. Her decision was universally lambasted, especially by the working mothers at Yahoo!, who were resentful that Mayer, the privileged CEO, was building a nursery right next to her office for her soon-to-be-arriving baby.
Mayer was wrong about remote work, and in some respects, her very unpopular decision probably did more to help make work from home (WFH for short) finally gain some traction. Contrary to fears set by managers, work from home staff are not only productive but have actually proven to be more productive, provided they are managed properly. WFH also makes employees happier and helps attract more top talent. This is in part why remote workers increased 80 percent from 2005 to 2012, and since then, the popularity of WFH went up to 80 percent.
It’s clear that the upsides to your company relaxing bans on remote work is far greater than the alternative. Don’t strictly adhere to old fashioned ideas that working in person is better. Younger members of the workforce are increasingly demanding the option to work from home. Get on board or risk losing some of your best talent, like Yahoo! did.
3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Gig Workforce
1. Use Technology to Coordinate Schedules and Workflows
Technology has really enabled companies to rely on a remote workforce. While you can get by with internet-connected computers and email, that’s really “roughing it” when it comes to managing a remote team. Fortunately, many cloud-based software tools are available to help manage your gig workers.
One of the biggest concerns from managers about leading remote teams is accountability. By using project management software that can handle advanced resource scheduling and allocation, these concerns should quickly fade away.
2. Make Your Remote Team Feel Like Part of the Team
Just because a team is in different parts of the country or globe, it doesn’t mean they can’t be encouraged to gel as a team. Face-to-face conferences, as well as the occasional in-person retreats to a fun, relaxing location can help inspire a feeling of unity.
Incentivize your team with bonuses and positive reinforcement. You can run your remote team by constantly threatening them with punishment for not doing the job right, but you are likely to get a lot of turnover instead of loyal team members who stick around for the long haul.
3. Get Feedback from Employees and Freelancers
Your gig workers may seem “remote” but they are still often on the front lines when it comes to dealing with the issues and challenges facing your business. Get their feedback on how to improve things – it is free for you, gives them a voice, and may help you overcome some blind spots.
Remote Teams Are the Future of Work
Whether you like it or not, the gig workforce is here to stay and the 2020s will see even more remote working. On the positive, it can make for productive, happy, employees and loyal freelancers, who get the benefits of a job while being able to avoid stressful commutes and fluorescent-lit offices. By leveraging this gig workforce, your company can grow exponentially much more easily.