The Gig Economy Is Emerging, but Overstated

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The 9-to-5 workday has been gradually dissolving as technology has changed the nature of work. Recent advances have lessened the need for employees to be in central offices, and the Internet has changed the workday from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. New flexible work arrangements, often lumped under the term “gig economy,” have emerged and made their mark in areas like the contact center, but the traditional workday is still expected to remain the prime option for most positions.

Technological advances have made it more difficult for individuals to segment their work and personal lives. Nowadays, the office can use email or social media to communicate with employees when they are at home or on vacation. In a growing number of instances, such communication is even considered part of the job.

Another change taking place is the nature of contract, or part-time, work. Such work arrangements are not new. For decades, individuals picked up side jobs and extra income working as a bartender or helping as a contractor at a construction site. However, the types of jobs available and how individuals land those positions has changed, largely because of technology.

The gig economy, which lacks a precise, universally accepted definition, is at the center of this evolution. Generally, the term means a free-market system centered on temporary positions where independent contractors are hired to perform specific short-term assignments with limited scopes.

New job websites, such as Freelancer.com, Fiverr, Upwork, and Jumia Production Services, have emerged to connect employers searching for contract help. These sites act as a conduit, letting employers list open jobs; allowing members to bid on them; and charging fees, sometimes to the business, sometimes to the employee, and, in certain cases, to both, for use of the service.

Organizations like Uber and Airbnb have become the standard-bearers for this model. They rely on mobile communication platforms to support new work arrangements. They hire largely virtual contract workers who opt into the positions offered. And often, the worker, rather than the company, supplies the work materials—a car for hire, for instance, or a room to rent. For businesses, these workers’ homes often replace typical office expenses.

The gig economy model certainly has some appeal for businesses, including the elimination of employee benefits, like healthcare coverage and 401(k) plans; reduced overhead; and lower real estate costs.

Some workers also like the model. They are not tied to the traditional Monday to Friday, 40-hour workweek; they work when and where they want. Also, they are not salaried employees, so the more they work, the more money they can make. Workers do not have to wait for a yearly review and a single-digit raise in salary. If they want more money, they bid on more open positions.

In the CRM space, gig economy positions are prevalent in one area and could gain traction in a few others. Companies have been using contract personnel in the contact center for years. This area has been one where corporations often tried to pare expenses, and relying on hourly paid contract workers often cost less than hiring full-time employees. To lure employees, companies sometimes offered flexible work arrangements, with some contact center personnel preferring to work at home and others preferring to work during nontraditional hours.

CONTACT CENTER CHALLENGES

But this approach has been challenging for contact center management. Businesses have had trouble keeping live agents. Turnover has been high, which results in soft expenses related to hiring and training of new employees.

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