The Future of Work
It’s been over 6 years since the start of the 2008 recession, while the dust has settled there were changes that occurred in business that were permanent shifts in the way that business is done and the way that thing will continue to be done. To use a more scientific terminology, this was a chemical change, not a physical change.
While companies have slashed expense accounts and corporate retreats have moved from Sanibel Island to the party room of the local Chucky Cheese, the rippling effect didn’t just stop at the welcome mat of Corporate America. Workers across the country and around the world felt the sting of fear of being let go, but that was only temporary. What has evolved out of this is a culture of distrust. Employees no longer hold onto the idea that they will work somewhere for 35 years and retire. This mindset started in the millennial generations and rose quickly through Gen X then into the Boomers with a speed of acceptance never before seen. This is quite possibly the first thing that all three generations have aligned on.
On the corporate end, businesses are licking their wounds and beginning the process of rebuilding. The need for talent is there, but the fear of hiring too quickly is still prevalent, even six years after the fact. While many companies are rebuilding, they are looking at alternative models beyond the 8 to 5 and 40 hours per week employee. The emerging trend is filling critical full-time positions while contracting out all non-critical functions.
Emergence of the Contractor
Today’s connected world makes it easy to find contractors in a variety of fields from marketing and sales, to customer service, human resources, accounting and IT. Individuals come in the form of part-time, temporary staff, project by project, or outsourced retainers. With technological advances many of these people don’t even require office space. They are able to work remotely on flexible schedules or compressed workweeks.
Recently, I took on a small project with an organization to help them in their recruiting efforts for a technical marketing specialist. I helped to define the role and requirements for candidates. A corporate recruiter was brought in to find potential candidates and my role was to sit in the interviews and ensure that they had the necessary skills to ensure their success in the organization. In the end they were able to be confidence that they had selected the best individual for the position.
I think that this really reinforces two points I made earlier: companies are being more cautious in hiring full time employees and also that they willing to pull in outsiders to help them to make strategic decisions.
It is never an easy jump from full-time to contractor. There are always unknowns. Will I be able to maintain my work/life balance? Am I honestly able to manage my time? Will I have enough clients to support my family’s needs?
In founding Lion + Panda these thoughts ran through my mind as well. I’m certain that all of the freelancers and contractors on our team have felt the same doubts. Richard is quick to get people excited about our virtual model, “you can work from anywhere in the world, set your own hours, be your own boss”, but the caveat that I remind him of is that it’s also a heck of a lot of work. Being your own boss comes at a cost. “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” It’s funny, but it’s also true.
The contractor lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone and many people aren’t ready to come face to face with that fear. To those, I say “Don’t jump”; however, to those who want to set their own rules and have a knowledge or skill set that is marketable…well, you only live once. Maybe it’s time to take that chance.
Even within our team, we have seen these stories play out in many different ways. For Kenny it has meant the freedom to work from his basement while his son rams his tricycle into the desk only to veer right and chase after the dog. For one of our developers it meant giving up the chaos of the city but being able to do design and development from a 40 acre farm with his family. With one of our designers, he has given up nights and weekends to help out, but more importantly to be able to pay for his wedding. There are many more stories, but you get the idea.
In the end, it’s very interesting how one of the worst economic collapses of the 21st century changed things. The catalyst of distrust on both the employer and employee side has led to some incredibly fascinating new models for how people work and earn a living. Those models have changed people’s lives and given them new opportunities to go out and do what makes them happy.