Is Freelancing Becoming More Permanent Way of Working?

Are you entrepreneurial in your career? Do you work for yourself? Both of these questions have become more common over recent years. There is a sense of both disillusionment and frustration with the traditional 40 hour a week job model. For knowledge workers, in particular, this job model does not reflect how work gets done. For others, shift work has changed or extended unemployment has made it necessary to find alternative sources of income. Frankly, there are a number of workplace trends that add to how freelancing has become much more common.

So, what’s going on?

There is some interesting information globally about freelancing. According to a Elance survey, the top freelancing countries are

  • United States
  • Indiana
  • Ukraine
  • Pakistan
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • China

So this is not just a US phenomenon, according to Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, freelancing is disrupting the workplace. He writes that the trends for 2014 are

  • Freelancers will gain recognition as part of the workforce
  • Teams will be like movie crews
  • Voluntary job quitters will abound
  • Reinvesting in being people-focused rather than tech-focused
  • Careers will launch virtually

In a CNBC article, Elaine Pofeldt writes that the unemployment rate is dropping despite the slow job growth rate. Although she focuses on the US experience of freelancing, there are similar reasons across countries as to why people choose freelancing over a traditional job. According to “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, there are strong attractors. In our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we’ve talked about how people are seeking more meaning and autonomy in their work lives.

So perhaps success is being redefined?

With the recent movie, The Wolf of Wall Street,  we are reminded of how success has been defined (and may be still defined). Traditionally, people who became successful are wealthy, connected and have a certain level of power. Freelancers could certainly have connections since networking is a key part of their marketing plan. But what about wealth or power? It seems “value” is more about work/life balance. Although wealth, power and fame are desires for some people, these often are also accompanied by working excessive hours, health issues and complicated personal relationships. This way of life is being rejected with more frequency.

More permanent way of working?

This is a curious question. Most people think that working for an organization is a more secure way of working due to regular pay and benefits. However, the last several years of economic turbulence has combined to make organizations more skiittish about hiring and employees less certain that they have job security or even that they want the day to day of workplace politics and a lack control over their time and energy.  Yet, it’s not all a bed of roses for freelancers. It is difficult to clock out when you are your own boss, there is often a feeling of feast or famine regarding work load and clients as well as difficult making sure that there is enough income to pay for health insurance, taxes or other financial obligations.

What do you think? Is freelancing the next trend in how people work? How will it change employment or even unemployment? Join us Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What does “freelancing” mean to you?

As freelancing becomes more permanent way of working, is it a variation of small business or something separate? 

How does freelancing change how work gets done?

Freelancing is often touted as positive way to manage & live life. What are downsides?

How does freelancing affect how we define success? 







How Is the Workplace Really Changing?

Trends in the workplaceEarlier this week, I was going through the various online news outlets that I subscribe to when one item caught my eye. Business & Leadership reported that in a survey commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Vanson Bourne three-quarters of the Irish businesses surveyed are open to a flexible workplace. This seems to be reflected in employees’ desires to telecommute.

But it’s more than just telecommuting

In the workplace, there are mutiple generations, the effects of the greater global recovering economy and rapid changes in technology both creating obstacles and opportunities. In Sodexo’s 2012 Workplace Trends Report, they listed the top 10 workplace trends discovered in their research.

1. Integration of workplace solutions: creating higher value

2. Workplaces that promote sustainability

3. Inclusive workplaces

4. Rewards and recognitions

5. Virtual workforces

6. The built environment as driver of employee engagement

7. Evidenced-based Space Design

8. Quantifiable employee health and wellness initiatives

9. Psychological health in the workplace

10. Flexible workplaces

Is there a quiet revolution happening or are the companies surveyed outliers?

Since the most basic element of a business is to meet the business goals, it is interesting to see how various companies get the work done. There is an interesting example on by Helen Cousins (@excelbusiness) of how one UK accountancy firm found a way to keep a valued employee by creating the means for her to work virtually from Ireland. Other companies are trying to find ways to integrate the push for more work/life balance. Sodexo notes in their report

We forsee a new business formula for success which includes integrating workplace + work style + life-style needs of the organization and its human capital, resulting in full engagement and maximized productivity.

Sounds good but…

With the ability to work from anywhere, many employees, particularly executives, are feeling like they can never unplug from the office. Mobile technology might be a great tool that enables flexibility to get work done from anywhere but it also can act like a ball and chain. And then there is the technology learning curve. As was noted in the Business and Leadership article, many Irish firms lack the technology to allow for their employees to work from alternative sites. How typical is this overall?

There is also a mindset that has to change to allow these trends to be norms. There is still a push for face-time on a daily basis at  many large and small companies. Is it simply that managers believe they must babysit their employees to get the work done?With a tight job market, it is possible that employees feel apprehensive requesting or even demanding a work environment that actually treats them as thinking, feeling and responsible adults. A friend of mine recently told me about his new job. He was totally astounded when his new manager told him to get whatever resources he needed, including hiring an assistant. His previous employer often denied even basic requests that would help complete tasks.

So what’s really happening?

It’s an exciting time of change, no doubt. With people becoming more aware that they don’t have to do the 9-5 (or 6 or 7 or…) thing in a office or cubicle and cram the rest of their lives into the remaining hours, employers will have to respond. Perhaps the Results-Only-Work Environment (ROWE) will gain momentum. Perhaps we’ll see the workplace as somewhere we enjoy spending our time because we feel valued and competent. Sure, we’ll have to figure out how to create face-time because live person-to-person contact is necessary for rapport building. On the other hand, we may make other connections in cafes, parks, online or at home that promote our creativity and productivity. The ways the workplace is morphing may be a slow revolution but there is movement.

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to take a look at these workplace trends, possible causes and implications for the future.

Which trends do you see becoming every normal workplace behavior?

Is there a quiet revolution happening or are the companies surveyed outliers?

How are mainstream organizations coping with these trends?