More empathy for the gig worker

Welcome to the world of a freelancer
This current crisis should increase our empathy for gig workers, both white and blue-collar. As I scroll through LinkedIn and Whatsapp as well as reflect on the conversations I am having with friends, clients, colleagues, and family, the topic dominating is that of the significant changes to how people work and live. These two worlds are suddenly being forced together, and often colliding with quite messy outcomes.

Working remotely or in isolation, feeling disconnected from your company, team and colleagues, an increased feeling of insecurity and having to build a new level of personal discipline in order to prioritise and ensure productivity are just some of the implications of this new working environment. There are many more of course. Welcome to the world of the gig worker.

The life of a professional freelancer has always involved managing these challenges, they have become adept at functioning under what we now realise, through our own experience, are extremely difficult conditions in which to deliver great output.

Rise of the Gig worker 

This places gig workers, remote workers and freelancers in a great position to add value to the market, they are already set up and accustomed to the environment and therefore provide a great asset which can now be leveraged to help organisations navigate current complexities and challenges, and for some, convert on new market opportunities or unexpected and accelerated growth. Organisations are using this fluid talent economy to support agility, leverage cross sector expertise and meet immediate capability and capacity needs.

This community delivers a positive social and economic impact and so it is important they are now supported so that they can continue to do so and play a key role in the recovery and growth story.

This event is likely to stimulate both supply and demand within the gig economy. The emergence of remote working at scale has provided great evidence for dispelling the fear that using contract resources and remote resources comes with significant downsides over on-site permanent employees. It also demonstrates the value of moving to more variable model when it comes to talent – both in terms of being able to quickly respond to changing demands but also bringing more agility in lowering costs. On the supply side, events like this often leads to a breakdown of the sense of security individuals get from having permanent employment. There is a realisation that security is very fragile, no matter what type of employment contract you have, and therefore the focus should be on building skills and expertise and ensuring you remain relevant through accumulating a variety of experiences. Security becomes a state of mind, something you control, as opposed to something tangible provided by your employer. This will undoubtedly bring in a new cohort of gig workers and freelancers, a combination of those forced to do so but also a large number who now choose to take a new path.

Moving from feeling empathy to taking responsibility

Despite the stimulus this crisis will create for the market, the most important outcome should be the recognition of the challenges faced by those working in the gig economy and an emergence of policy, legal protection and education to support their fair treatment and acknowledge their role in society.

Both white and blue collar workers add significant economic value, this unique opportunity we all have to feel true empathy for them must be utilised to drive real change. The issues have been highlighted, and it is now important that key stakeholders step up and play a role to resolve them. In Asia and Africa, where we operate, the market remains immature and the issues at their most acute, with those both on the supply and demand side still learning how to work together in a way that provides a positive experience and is mutually beneficial.

This responsibility to be an advocate for Gig workers needs to be led by business like ours. If we are to benefit from this economy in a sustainable way it is essential we contribute in equal measures. For the ecosystem to survive, we must go beyond personal interest and ensure we are making it a better market for all.