The workforce is changing. Businesses are increasingly becoming part of the “gig economy”, which is filled with a large pool of talented independent contractors who perform their tasks, a.k.a “gigs”, remotely. In 2017, the fourth most popular job search was “remote/work from home” and thousands of companies, including Amazon, Dell, Cigna and Philips, actively recruited more remote workers to join their workforces. All sizes of companies in various industries are consistently moving away from operations being performed in a traditional brick-and-mortar office to hiring more remote workers to perform both short and long-term tasks. In fact, it has been projected that, by 2020, remote workers will comprise nearly half of the working population in the U.S.
Hiring remote workers provides many advantages for employers. Paying workers as needed per project is more cost-effective than maintaining employees’ salary and benefits annually. This is particularly valuable and less risky for small employers, startups and seasonal businesses. Employers also save significantly in terms of administrative costs and overhead. Using experienced contractors for tasks within their area of expertise can also eliminate the need to train employees to develop new skills while expanding the available talent pool. In-house workers can also focus on more long-term, larger projects and goals when remote workers handle more discrete, smaller tasks and projects. This frees up revenue, improves the quality of business operations and ensures clients receive top notch deliverables performed by an efficient, talented team of individuals.
Remote work arrangements also offer workers increased flexibility and freedom in terms of schedule and workload. Technology makes it easy for these workers to perform their duties from nearly anywhere with any device. This results in an improved work-life balance and job satisfaction. Working remotely also significantly decreases commute stress and transportation-related expenses, such as auto insurance and maintenance, fuel and parking. Independent contractors may also be able to perform “gig” work in addition to their primary job or work remotely for multiple companies to obtain supplemental income. This additional work can provide new skills, making workers more valuable and marketable.
Employing a remote workforce also has its downsides. Communication must be virtual – via videoconference, teleconference, email or messaging. This can be costly to facilitate, and any technology hiccups can disrupt productivity. This lack of in-person communication and collaboration may also hinder the free-flow of ideas and creative exchange. Employers may also find it more difficult to monitor employee performance.
Remote work arrangements also provide challenges for workers. Income is not guaranteed or regular for independent contractors, which makes it difficult to manage a personal budget. They receive little or no benefits, such as health insurance and retirement contributions, and must pay their own taxes. Independent contractors are also not entitled to paid leave in the event of illness or injury and are not protected by laws prohibiting discrimination. Remote workers may also feel disconnected from the social aspects of working alongside the members of their team.
The various pluses and minuses of maintaining a remote-only workforce have many employers electing to employ a “hybrid” approach – maintaining a physical workplace with on-site staff while also utilizing remote workers. This approach attracts all kinds of talent and provides a diverse workforce. Employers should balance the advantages and disadvantages and evaluate whether this model is feasible for their workplace and, if so, for what roles and tasks.
To best integrate a “hybrid” workforce, remote workers should be provided with opportunities to be with their on-site peers several times a year for on-site meetings and company events. This will provide a stage for formal collaboration and casual discussion and foster workplace relationships. Employers should also ensure that all workers receive proper onboarding and training so they understand and fit within their organization’s culture, regardless of where the work is performed. These efforts will help develop a more unified team committed to the overall mission of the organization. As with any work arrangement, all workers should be treated well and equally valued.
Compass is available to assist with evaluating whether a “hybrid” workforce is a smart solution for your organization and to help with recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training.
Nicole Spector, “What 2017 Search Trends Tell Us About Current Job Market,” NBCNews.com, January 2018
Brie Weiler Reynolds, “State of the Remote Job Market,” Flexjobs.com, March 2018
Brian Rashid, “The Rise of the Freelancer Economy,” Forbes.com, January 2016
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