Employees: a dying breed in a ‘gig economy’?

Here’s a new term for your employment lexicon – the ‘gig economy’. Have you heard it before? Well, you need to know it could change or even threaten the traditional employment market. It could even go as far as to influence the types of properties we find for relocating professionals and where employees live.

A gig economy is one where freelancers and contractors are the norm, and the majority of them will not work in a traditional office. A number of factors have combined to create a growing gig economy. Today’s workforce is much more mobile, fueled by wifi and cloud computing, and a single department can be spread out across the globe and still work as one. This agile way of working – ‘consciously uncoupled’ from a set office location – is compounded by the cost-effectiveness of letting go of a big headquarters. Firms are open to smaller, more flexible offices or even co-sharing, enjoying the benefits of cross-company collaboration and the freedom of hiring more or less desk space as the size of their workforce changes.

The term Millennials is also important – we hope it’s already in your employment lexicon. The Millennial Generation isn’t obsessed with a job for life. Evidence shows Millennials want variety and will change their job every three to four years, with contractor or freelance status facilitating this new, flighty approach to employment. They also know variable economic conditions mean job security isn’t guaranteed, and this empowers them to chop and change during their careers.

The gig economy is already blossoming in America. Research by Intuit estimates that by 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors. Now the gig economy is starting to flourish in the UK. The Trades Union Congress estimates almost a quarter of a million more people work from home in the UK now than 10 years ago, and 5 million people have opted out of traditional work entirely to join the gig economy and be their own boss.

It’s not just anecdotal evidence, either – hard statistics are emerging. Already 83% of Deloitte’s 16,000 staff adopt an agile way working – setting up at home or elsewhere to complete their tasks. Another employment giant – PwC – found that only 23% of UK adults want to work in a traditional office environment. So what does the gig economy mean for the relocation market?

Corporately-instigated relocation may now involve finding properties driven by the desire to work from home or remotely. Questions will be asked about broadband speed and home offices, while the locations preferred may revolve around co-sharing office facilities and creative hubs, rather than the need to commute to a specific headquarter. The mobile, agile employment market may encourage more private relocation business, with highly skilled freelancers choosing to roam the world for temporary opportunities, rather than be tied to a single company. It’s also thought employers will move towards a ‘try before they buy’ style of recruitment, with freelancers placed on short contracts or projects to assess their suitability before they are given permanent employee status. This may encourage even more relocation movement, with emphasis on super-short and short-term lets.

 As we move into 2018, the relocation market needs to embrace the gig economy, prepare for how it might shape recruitment and present solutions that drive business.

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