By Julia Kermode , CEO and founder of IWORK
Dolly Parton’s 1980’s hit 9-5 rang true for many workers and commuters over the years but nowadays, the traditional 9-5 job is becoming a thing of the past and never more so than in the last year. In the midst of a pandemic, an increasing number of workers are finding their daily routine has changed unrecognisably as they very quickly had to set themselves up to work at a kitchen table whilst only seeing their colleagues through a screen every day.
Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the traditional working day but for many independent workers, this type of working has always been the norm for them. Whether they are working from a home office, a school room or a hospital ward, independent workers waved the 9-5 job goodbye when they opted to be independent and today there are some 4.5 million people working for themselves with that figure set to grow.
Independent working offers choice
In the aftermath of Covid when the economy has taken a battering, many people may find themselves without a permanent job and some will be spurred on to embrace self-employment. For most people, it is a positive choice and, for the majority who take the plunge, it is a move that they never regret. It’s all about being master of your own destiny and more people are finding that appealing.
Arguably, working for yourself might bring you more stability than being an employee in the current crises, depending of course on your chosen sector and the specific services you are providing. People are taking the how, what, where, when and, notably, for whom they work into their own hands and never look back. It’s happening across all sectors from the creative industries to healthcare, from law to teaching and whether you call them temps, locums, freelancers, contractors, interims or gig workers, they all have something in common. They are all independent workers providing a service for a fee.
Independent workers help businesses to thrive
And, with the economy in freefall, these workers are providing essential support that many companies in the private sector and many services in the public sector need. With economic uncertainty comes a reluctance and nervousness about hiring permanent employees who are entitled to numerous statutory rights such as paid holiday, maternity, paternity or adoption leave, and of course the additional cost of employers NICs.
Independent workers offer experience, expertise and knowledge that businesses and services can benefit from on an as needs basis according to demand. They can also hit the ground running and deliver their expert services quickly if they are managed effectively. In November 2020, The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) highlighted in its Jobs Outlook that ‘this quarter, more than half (53%) of employers who hire agency workers said that they use them to help manage uncertainty. This was notably higher than a year earlier (39%)’.
Managing a freelance and contracting workforce is key to getting the best out of your independent workers. Managed well, independent workers will help a business or a public service to thrive. We have seen that first-hand from the key workers who have all helped the country to get through the Covid crisis, many of whom are independent workers or agency staff. Oftentimes, the independent workforce is invisible particularly as they sometimes move on quickly from job to job and project to project.
Today’s workplace is looking very different and those companies and services that embrace the independent workforce and make it a part of their HR strategies will be at a competitive advantage.
It is these very workers who the country will need to help get the economy back on its feet again in the aftermath of this pandemic. And for that, they too need a round of applause.