The Rise of the Gig Economy: How Technology Has Changed the Way We Work

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Gig Economy Graphic
Gig Economy Graphic _ Mark Warner Flickr/senatormarkwarner

Independent work, which primarily characterizes the type of work being done in the gig economy, is becoming a growing force in the labor economy. In the United States and Europe, more and more people are turning to independent work as another source of income.

In 2016, a survey by McKinsey Global Institute done across Europe and the U.S. showed that close to 162 million people engage in some form of independent work. That number is close to 20 to 30 percent of these countries’ productive population. It also found out that those who choose this type of work arrangement, either as a primary source of income or as a side income, are saying they are more satisfied with their professional life. There are certain things that make working in the gig economy more satisfying than traditional, 9-to-5 arrangements.

Why Choose to Work in the Gig Economy

The gig economy grew as more and more businesses preferred to hire independent contractors and short-term workers and with it, more workers are making themselves available for such arrangements. The Internet and new technologies have powered the growth of the gig economy as remote work becomes more feasible. Telecommuting arrangements have more workers clocking in more productive hours, during which they no longer spend time traveling to and from their place of work.

Boundaries, geographic or otherwise, no longer exist, as team members working on projects may come from different countries and different areas of expertise. Improvements in productivity of independent work is made possible not only by pooling the best talent for a project, but also through the help of technology.

In Europe, the International Labour Organisation studied how digital technologies such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and personal computers have changed and are changing the way we work. For those who are engaged in independent work, the study found out that these people may have better work-life balance, not spend too much time in the commute, and more productive.

How to Survive in Today’s Gig Economy

This arena of work is certainly not new. And contrary to what most would think, it is strictly not just the arena of millennials. The gig economy is no longer just an option for those in their 20s or 30s. In fact, many among the older generation have seen how they can fit in as independent workers. And with their expertise and experience in their own fields, they become quite the resource for businesses and companies who need them.

The growth of the gig economy seems to be unstoppable. In the U.S., independent contractors or workers are seen to increase to a whopping 40 percent of the entire workforce. And it’s not just big business using this resource, as small businesses also look to these contractors to get good talent when it’s needed the most.

Technology is at the forefront of this growth. Online marketplaces and other digital platforms are evolving in line with the growth of independent work. From professional networking through LinkedIn, to the online job markets for recruitment and hiring, these tools have revolutionized the way we work and the way we look for work.

Technology and the Gig Economy

For those working as independent workers, online digital platforms such as Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork, Gigster, PeoplePerHour, Guru, FlexJobs are their main source of information for jobs. These platforms provide workers with a system to share their portfolio and showcase their experience. They can also browse through projects and available jobs suited for their line of work. In some cases, they can bid for projects and compete in contests. In other cases, employers can get in touch with them directly for jobs.

This type of digital service is growing, as a response to the growth of the sector it primarily services. From typical job marketplaces, it is also evolving into more specialized platforms for specialized independent work.

Looking for technology solutions for one’s business can be daunting, especially for a small business. Because of this, specialized platforms have emerged offering every type of technology-enhanced or technology-driven solutions. This can range from web design and development, digital marketing, software and systems development and many more.

Some platforms take it a step further and aggregate their pool of talent to make it easier for businesses to choose among the best they have. Efficiency, as with most digital platforms for independent work, is key. These platforms brings solutions to businesses, small or big, that are searching for the right talent for the right price.