Decades ago, a job meant dressing up in a freshly pressed suit or dress, commuting to the office via train or bus, then working in an office cubicle from nine to five. For a long time, this was how jobs looked like for many people.
Thanks to new technology developed over the past few years, the face of work has drastically changed that it’s almost unrecognisable from what so many of the older generations are used to.
Now, a job can mean working in your comfiest pyjamas, working from the comforts of your home or your favourite coffee shop, and on a flexible schedule that is tailor-fit to your liking.
Welcome to the world of remote working and the gig economy.
Remote working in a nutshell
Quite simply, the remote worker is someone that works outside the traditional office environment through the aid of digital communications technology. If you have a computer with access to the internet, you’re pretty much good to go.
While the internet was available to the public since the start of the 90s, remote working (also called telecommuting) only started gaining ground in recent years with the creation of programs like Skype, Slack, and Google Drive. The development of more effective collaboration platforms, cheaper and more powerful computers, and the accessibility of high-speed internet are what fueled the rapid rise of the remote worker.
Why you should (or shouldn’t) be a remote worker
Remote working offers several advantages, with the most apparent being the money saved for both employees and employers. Employees benefit from less time and money spent on commutes while employers can have significantly lower overhead costs with fewer people physically present in the office at a time.
One of the biggest benefits that attracts people to remote working is a flexible schedule. Work-life balance is now entirely in your hands, so now you can spend more time with your friends, pursue your hobbies, or even work on a side hustle. The ability to design your workday around your appointments instead of the other way around can be very powerful and liberating.
Remote working technology has allowed us to transcend geographical barriers, giving employers more opportunities to recruit top talent from all over the world to easily create diverse and multicultural teams.
However, not all is rainbows and sunshine. The reduced amount of face-to-face contact presents a barrier to building strong working relationships with other team and company members. This may lead to remote workers feeling isolated and disconnected from the company’s culture, which shows a need for managers to focus on better communication strategies and individual engagements.
In addition, while remote workers might have more control over their schedule, work-life balance can also go in a totally opposite direction. A traditional job would normally have work end at five, leaving you the rest of the day to unplug yourself from work and do the things you love. With telecommuting, the line between home and work becomes blurry, which could eventually lead to burnout.
The gig economy, summarized
Much like remote working, the global gig economy has also seen meteoric growth in recent years. Quite simply, the gig economy is an ecosystem that relies on freelancers to do short-term projects or services called gigs.
You probably already have plenty of experience with the gig economy, such as if you’ve ever booked an Uber or stayed in an Airbnb. In exchange for money, these companies provide short-term services to high numbers of clients who usually hire on a per-project basis.
What makes the gig economy special?
One defining feature of the gig economy is that it’s very output based: the amount that freelancers earn is entirely based on how much work they can produce. Contrary to popular belief, it’s entirely possible to create full-time incomes through freelancing. While this can create stressful workloads if not managed properly, this system can be appealing to people that prefer to work independently.
The gig economy also offers much more flexibility in work. Because they are not tied down to one specific company or type of work, freelancers now have greater choice in the projects they pursue and can take ownership of what they create.
The gig economy also provides benefits to employers as well, especially for those with seasonal businesses (e.g. companies with predictable increases in demand during certain times of the year). Instead of having to hire full-time employees who will be paid during both the on and off-seasons, businesses need only hire freelancers to augment the core team during periods of high demand. Freelancers need not be given the conventional benefits that full-time workers receive, such as medical or retirement.
When all is said and done, one thing is for certain: both remote working and the gig economy are here to stay.