The next wave of workplace diversity

Innovation comes naturally with a diversity of people on the job, including an increasing number of professionals who don’t fit the 9-to-5 mold. Multiple studies predict that at least 40 percent of the workforce will do freelance work in the next few years thanks to benefits for employers and talent alike.

According to the Freelancers Union’s 2016 report, 55 million Americans have already joined the freelance economy – earning an estimated USD1 trillion in 2015. That’s more than one-third of the workforce operating outside the traditional work model. Freelancing is growing fast, with 2 million new freelancers joining the scene between 2014 and 2016.

Why freelancing is hot

Alternative work arrangements have become more widespread for a few reasons, including:

Employers win cost control. In this time of rampant uncertainty – from geopolitical surprises and financial volatility to environmental risks and security threats – organizational success depends on doing more for less. Integrating freelancers enables employers to diversify the workforce and manage HR costs with greater agility. It also enables them to meet the continual innovation needs by investing more in a short-term expert than they could afford for the long haul.

Freelancers have begun to like being freelancers. Freelancing has become mainstream, and freelancers are becoming more empowered in their way of working. According to the Freelancer Union report, freelancers go freelance because they want to, with 63 percent saying they do it more out of choice than out of necessity – up 10 percentage points from 2014. What’s more, the report suggests they are “significantly more” likely to feel overwhelmingly positive about their work, and to feel respected, engaged, and excited to start each day – with 79 percent saying freelancing is preferable to a traditional job.

Favorable work conditions. Freelancing has also become easier and more enjoyable thanks to technology and modern coworking spaces. In the Union report, 73 percent of freelancers say technology has made it easier for them to find work, which is four percentage points higher than the previous year. More than half (66 percent) say the amount of work they got online has increased in the last year.

How to plan for more contingent workers

With the nature of work evolving, an accurate, thoughtful analysis of employees’ daily work needs and preferences has become more important than the actual number of employees. In fact, the average office desk is occupied about only 30 percent of the time. For many workers, freelancer or not, the “office” could be a client site, a coffee shop, or a few different workspaces within corporate headquarters.

When “offices” can be located anywhere, it’s important to pay attention to the actual space and equipment usage rather than head count. A company with a flexible layout and plenty of unassigned seating areas could add workers without procuring additional space. By measuring the right things for your business, you can create a workplace with the right facilities at the right time for every employee – full-time, part-time or freelancer.

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