RSS Feed


More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

Will return to office accelerate the freelance revolution?

Marcus Beaver, UKI Country Lead - Alight Solutions

As we moved into the 20s, the increase in digital jobs prompted more to become self-employed or freelance. People realised by selling their skills and experience, they could earn more by working for multiple organisations while having more control over how and when they work.

The disruption of the past year has done nothing to slow the pace. In fact, having time to re-evaluate has fuelled people’s desire to change how they work. More than 20% of the current working population said that by 2025 they planned to be their own boss.

The fastest rise is in the 40+ age group. Note to employers here that these are your people with the very saleable skills and experience all organisations need to return quickly to growth. And this is where the employee retention conundrum may soon start to hit employers hard.

To be employed or to be self-employed? This is the question.
Does the power sit with the employee? In the UK at least the working age population will be fully vaccinated by start of summer. Employers are sending “back to office” emails at a time people are comfortable not only working from home, but with the additional “income” and time gained from not commuting.

There are also the more introverted colleagues for who lockdown has been the first time they’ve felt fully in control, truly comfortable and productive ‘at work’. None of the disruptions, noise and politics that can come with office life. Something extroverts might thrive on.

To stop these people and the rest of us from working from home, it’s going to take a major review of rewards and benefits to lure us back to the office for more than a day or two a week. Opinion polls across all industries report large proportions of workers having no intention to return full-time to offices. In fact, 94% state they want the option to work remotely. And it seems employers are listening.

A BBC survey of UK’s 50 biggest employers showed that many firms and plan to offer a mix of home and office working. KPMG, just one example, has launched a “four-day fortnight. Others are offering a package of measures designed to offer greater flexibility and choice.

Where a steady paycheque was a major draw for being employed, it’s no longer clear cut. Many lost “safe” jobs and have had to review what they do. Before 2020, few had heard of furlough, and it wasn’t long before people realised their outgoings didn’t support a significant reduction in salary.

This is sure to have kept the freelance momentum growing, but so too has the newly recognised value of keyworkers. Typically, freelancers were in finance or creative jobs. The rise in self-employment is happening across all wage scales, reflecting a shift in the contractual nature of work in many industries, often led by changes in regulations.

We’re seeing more lower waged jobs with people going solo as ‘gig workers’, working as drivers, hairdressers, childcare providers and for contract service companies, care homes and as bank staff. This way they keep more of the hourly than as an employee and have control over their working hours.

This will cause problems for employers in high staff turnover industries if they’re not attractive employers. They need to make it easy for people to work for them. Earned wage access and digital timesheet are just two of the technologies blue collar employers are starting to invest in to retain reliable staff.

There are no strong reasons why flexible working should not become the norm.
Many organisations keeping the idea of hybrid working under review. Others are adamant the only way to achieve full growth is for all to return full time. Their perception is that work from home is detrimental to business. That people are getting slower, losing creativity, and missing out on the idea generation being in an office is thought to generate.

It could be argued companies like this should review the structure and limitations of current ways of working.  Multinationals have long been using collaboration platforms and cloud access with great success. To insist on continuing as “we always have” is high risk. So many are clear they don’t want to work like this and have proven they can deliver remotely equally well.

This talent (your competitive advantage) will simply up and leave to a firm offering a digital work experience. Location is no longer a limitation. It’s as easy to work for a company overseas as it is locally.

The move to a mix of employed and contracted skills, in-house and remote workforces will require HR teams and processes to adapt. Self-service HR and remote time management systems will be essential.

There will also be implications for payroll. No longer working in a city, for example, could mean salary weighting is removed and employees working from another country will be under the workforce and payroll legislations of these. Flexible benefits will also need to be brought in line with the times.

There is really nothing new. Simply old-world workforce challenges being solved in a new world way.

Vive the freelance revolution
Scaling is going to be essential as businesses push to achieve growth strategies. We’ve proved that many jobs and functions can be completed equally well remotely. This has reduced the gap between employee and freelancer with employers realising the benefits too.

If you don’t perform, you’ll not be hired again and there’s none of the time and cost that comes with hiring, managing and firing an employee. Furthermore, as with shared workspaces to prompt belonging and creativity, we’re likely to see freelancers teaming up for capacity and hive mind on bigger and / or global projects. High-cost people employed for a specific project for greatest return on investment.

    Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)