How COVID-19 is Reshaping The Nature of Employment Via Gig Economy
As lockdown restrictions keep disrupting business operations, volatile demand, and supply scenarios are driving a steady shift towards the gig model.
The COVID-19 outbreak has nudged many corporates into adopting the concept of the gig economy. As multiple lockdowns and social distancing restrictions make the resumption of regular work from office premises uncertain and risky, business operations have been immensely disrupted.
With companies seeking to implement viable BCPs (business continuity plans), the traditional office model is no longer practical for many corporates under the current circumstances. Consequently, these factors have been driving a steady transition to the gig economy.
In many cases, the gig model is becoming the new normal since it has been offering huge potential for both blue-collar as well as white-collar workers. In effect, it has been benefitting both employers and prospective employees. Yet, the gig economy concept is not a new phenomenon, as freelancers and independent contractors have been around for years.
Across industries, myriad companies have been left with no option but to retrench or bench workers. As a result, there are a rising number of highly-skilled, displaced workers who are turning to ‘gigs’ or contractual employment as they wait for an economic turnaround.
Ever since the pandemic broke out, it has become increasingly clear that the coronavirus is here to stay and the world will need to live and work around its constraints. Moreover, successful vaccines will only be one of the complementary means of combatting the virus, not eliminating it.
Against this backdrop, the gig economy can be considered a viable way out of the ongoing jobs crisis that has been exacerbated due to the pandemic. This is especially true in the rural parts of India as many workers had to leave city jobs and return home, with no proper employment prospects in their native towns.
One of the biggest advantages of the gig model is its flexibility. Employees do not necessarily need to stay in or relocate to the city where their company is based because the concept is founded on the premise of remote working. Therefore, after the coronavirus outbreak, the work from home and remote working models have received a fillip, thanks to the flexibility these systems offer.
A flexible workforce helps organizations manage costs well with the peaks and troughs of demand, unlike the conventional work system. This flexibility enables companies to rapidly scale up operations when exponential growth happens and helps provide specialist skills for even one time or occasional use.
For organizations wanting to grow and access critical skills without the constraints of long-term contractual obligations, adopting and managing such alternative forms of employment have become critical.
From the perspective of workers too, such a remote working model is attractive. With data plans getting increasingly cheaper and connected devices being more affordable, job seekers from all walks of life have been using the Internet to search for employment or undertake many forms of work that depend on digital means. These factors have allowed this once-informal sector to gradually become a part of the mainstream economy. Gig workers are fast emerging as a part of the mainstream workforce because they offer the much-needed competencies of working with speed and agility.
Already, the gig industry has begun shifting from supplying human resources to offering skill-based, outcome-focused, on-demand gig staffing. In today’s highly competitive times, the speed of delivery, credible skill certification and quality of the workforce are sought-after attributes for on-demand work completion.
As businesses embrace the new normal, some key trends will drive the growth of the gig economy in the days ahead. One will be the variable-isation of the workforce in ensuring cost optimization across industries in boosting the gig workforce demand. For example, field operations and sales work that were earlier undertaken via in-house resources on fixed salaries are now being variable-ised.
Gig workers will also receive a boost in demand due to the shift in the mode of operations from on-field to digital. For instance, tele-calling is becoming one of the key elements for digital operations. Besides, the increasingly higher participation of small business owners deploying technology platforms in increasing their business has been generating additional employment opportunities for gig workers.
Furthermore, as more teams include both full-time and gig personnel, working norms will need to change. Full-time employees will often need to step into coaching and “connecting” roles. In essence, this would mean asking questions about external colleagues and identifying discrete pieces of work for outside partners, making it possible for gig workers to tap into institutional knowledge.
Finally, be it full-time staff or gig employees, both categories would need to learn about working productively across teams that may be dispersed and even remote. Each person will need to become adept at collaborating with a rotating set of teammates while articulating previously tacit team norms and making progress easy for everybody to track. With all these elements falling into place in many industries, the gig economy is set to rise faster.
(Th given article is authored by Sahil Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, GigIndia)