Why we still need connections in the age of the ‘gig economy’

With greater technological capabilities at our fingertips, the way we work is gradually becoming less rigid and structured. The growth of technology has allowed people to work more flexibly and remotely than ever before, but how is this impacting the relationship we have with engaging in a physical space like an office?
 
It’s important to look at how this may impact what a career could look like for the upcoming generation. As Kate Kendall, Founder and CEO of CloudPeeps suggests, the future could be more about people leading without managing, creating a self-driven yet still collaborative model of work. 

The rise of the ‘gig’ economy

The emergence of the ‘gig’ economy has come from the allure of ditching the 9-to-5 in favour of more flexible work. For many students, creatives, retirees or parents, for example, this kind of work can make a lot of sense. But what does it mean to get involved in this new economy?

Its definition is quite broad, extending to a variety of different career paths. According to OFX customer and partner Rob Rawson, Chief of Staff at Time Doctor, “It can apply to a lot of things, like Uber and AirBnB. It also could apply to people who are doing project work from home, like web design and development, and it could also apply to people who are hiring and working with people from different countries.”

As to why so many people are jumping on board the gig bandwagon, Rob explains that it’s often hard for people to go back to the way they used to work once they’ve become accustomed to the flexibility of working remotely.

“People are living in cities where the traffic is so horrible that they’re travelling 2 hours to work each day - so the opportunity to work from home and save yourself those 2 hours each day is really valuable to people,” Rob explains.

“People who go to that style of working, it’s very hard for them to go back.”

“People who go to that style of working, it’s very hard for them to go back.”

Rob from Time Doctor on why so many people are working remotely today.

Working remotely

What this means for businesses and their employees

Companies today should work towards adapting values that reflect the changing economy so they can retain the best talent and have the ability to hire from anywhere. This also shifts the way employees gauge their commitment to work – the investment they show is far more transparent and this blurs the lines of what makes a person ‘committed’.
 
“There’s the perception that as an employee you’d be more invested because you’re working full-time, but then an overseas contractor could be working full-time too, or they could just be a very enthusiastic and invested person.”
New ways of working

For more ‘traditional’ companies however, outsourcing their work is built on more than the loyalty a contractor can provide, but also a sense of trust in knowing where their money is going. This is where Time Doctor steps in. The product aims to provide a way for freelancers to track their work and avoid distractions so their employer knows exactly how much work they’ve done. That way, they can be more comfortable in making a transaction remotely.

“The idea is that as an employee or a contractor you can prove to your boss that you are working and they feel more comfortable with allowing people to work remotely. But it’s controlled by the employee, so they control the software and they can start and stop whenever they want,” Rob explains. 

It’s important for Rob that the use of Time Doctor strays from being used as a tool to spy or intimidate, instead to be used responsibly for people who want to work this way. This drives out the need to ‘see’ people working, which may inspire a greater sense of trust and transparency in the future.

“Most companies don’t allow remote work because of trust, so if you really want to work remotely and you can control the software, then people are happy to use it for that purpose.”
Team culture

The importance of maintaining connections

Companies today should work towards adapting values that reflect the changing economy so they can retain the best talent and have the ability to hire from anywhere. This also shifts the way employees gauge their commitment to work – the investment they show is far more transparent and this blurs the lines of what makes a person ‘committed’.
 
“There’s the perception that as an employee you’d be more invested because you’re working full-time, but then an overseas contractor could be working full-time too, or they could just be a very enthusiastic and invested person.”

“Once people become more educated, I think the barrier then is cultural. The educational barrier that companies don’t culturally feel like they could run a business remotely, because they’re not used to it and they haven’t learnt how to do it.” 

Despite the remote barriers within their own company at Time Doctor, the team is taking steps to overcome these obstacles so people can still engage with each other more fully.  
 
“We have video game nights, where our team goes and plays with each other within their teams. We have virtual coffees where we chat to each other. We have weekly meetings and sometimes we’ll put on funny hats to make each other laugh – so there’s still some level of connection there and you’re creating more of a bond.”


For companies considering the switch to more flexible working conditions in the midst of the emerging ‘gig economy’, there are some key motivations that would suggest this might be the next best move. In our global world, the expectation can be that a company needs to be ‘on’ 24/7, and the ability to hire from a global pool of talent can make this a reality. The development of new technology in the face of new ways of working also works to eliminate idle capacity and ensure that people can work in the most fulfilling way possible. 

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