How Independent Contractors, Freelancers and Other Contingent Workers Are Reshaping the Physical Workplace
Freelancers, temps, contractors, consultants, and a wide range of other contingent positions have become increasingly common in many professions. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably and/or incorrectly. Regardless of what you call it, the workforce of the future is taking shape before our eyes—and its defining feature is flexibility.
The use of contingent workers seems certain to be a long-term feature of the economy. But as companies of all types and sizes increase their use of flexible workers, they will need to align their workspaces with new types of people and patterns of working.
40% of the U.S. Workforce is Contingent
A 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that millions of Americans work outside of traditional employment relationships in temporary, contingent, or contract-based roles. The exact size of this flexible workforce varies depending on how “contingent work” is defined, and which data sources are used for measurement. According to the GAO, contingent workers—including agency temps and independent contractors—comprise up to 40% of the total U.S. workforce.
Flexible and Remote Workers Are Increasingly Integrated
The 2017 Future Workforce Report commissioned by freelancing website Upwork provides more detail about the growth of remote and contingent workers from the manager’s perspective. An independent research firm surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers and found:
- 48% of companies utilize some type of flexible workforce
- 63% of managers have at least one team member working remotely
- 72% of departments use some combination of temporary workers, freelancers, agency workers and/or remote workers
The most commonly cited benefits of using freelancers include the flexibility to scale rapidly and access to diverse skill sets not available in-house. The most common concerns were maintaining accountability and compatibility with existing teams. However, it is clear that “accountability” increasingly refers to performance and results, rather than time and attendance.
Only about 10% of hiring managers said they believe physical presence in the office is important to a new hire’s success—and departments frequently have both freelancers (35%) and employees (56%) conducting a significant amount of their work remotely.
The Inevitable Shift to a Flexible Workspace
The increasing flexibility of the workforce presents huge opportunities—but it also creates challenges in terms of workspace management. With conventional time, attendance and assigned seating policies, it was relatively easy to forecast your real estate needs and manage the relationship between people and space.
In the age of mobility, having an assigned desk for each employee would lead to a huge amount of waste at many companies. However, switching to a completely virtual office is not practical or desirable for every organization.
In the 21st-century, companies will increasingly have to strike a balance between the digital and physical worlds of work. To get the most out of new ways of working, your workspace must become as flexible as your workforce. This includes mobile time clocks and office hoteling software to empower flexible workers by making it as easy as possible for them to work anywhere, anytime.
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