The Future: Freelance Economy
A recent article in The Economist described the converging effects of the shared economy – as represented by services like Uber, airBNB, and Task Rabbit – and the freelancers who are the lifeblood of such services:
The corporate contract continues to evolve as a direct result of the disruptive forces of rapid technology advances. Many companies allow their professional employees to work from home – something that would be verboten in the past. Computers, broadband, and Skype enable employees to participate in meetings and conference calls easily and effectively.
Corporations have responded by reducing office space dedicated to employees and by having shared work stations – employees do not have dedicated cubicles or workspaces. The benefits to companies are obvious: lower infrastructure costs and real estate requirements.
The benefits to employees, however, are uneven and highly-debated. On the one hand, employees who work from home, gain personal flexibility. On the other hand, mid-level employees have seen scant economic benefits as pay levels have stagnated over the last 20 years.
The worker's landscape has transformed from one dominated by full-time, long term employment with full benefits to a landscape that is a montage of employees, contractors, consultants and freelancers.
So, what is next? What impact will the freelance economy have upon the work world of tomorrow?
Put another way, what will the life of a “successful” worker look like in 2020?
The trend of stagnant wage growth is likely to continue and successful employees will add freelancing skills to their repertoire to supplement wages. Some will become part-time Uber drivers or Elance consultants, others will start consulting businesses and some will become inventors. Soon the intro query at a party will change from “what do you do?” to “what else do you do?”
Over time, employers may re-examine the meaning of full-time employment. As more employees have part-time gigs, employers may consider that a 30 or 35 work week should be the standard. Companies may provide wage increases by paying some employees the same salary for less hours. Alternatively, corporations may employ a larger number of 30-hour employees allowing them to diversity their skill set.
Increased volatility, reduced job security, and the need to constantly upgrade skills and train to learn new skills will be the mantra of the work world.
Such an environment will favor inventors. The inventor of the future may have a full-time job, a product that is placed with Quirky, and a product licensed with Edison Nation.