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In 2020, the world of work and the workforce itself changed forever. When the global pandemic hit, workers were turning their living rooms and bedrooms into offices, some juggling remote learning for their children simultaneously — and doing it all while wearing sweatpants.
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As a result, millions of workers experienced autonomy and independence regarding their work for the first time. They received more flexibility as a courtesy to help balance work and family, and never had to worry about a boss walking by their office to micro-manage them. While they didn’t know it at the time, these changes were slowly transferring the power that employers held for so long back to workers, changing the relationship between employee and employer as we knew it.
Looking to the future, questions remain. Will flexibility be readily available moving forward, or will rigid hours once again reign? Will offices simply be a thing of the past, or should workers gear up to resume their typical commute?
In partnership with Entrepreneur Media, flexible talent matching platform FlexTal surveyed approximately 700 U.S. workers and freelancers throughout the second quarter of 2021 to determine how these trends will shape the future of the world of work. This report is a culmination of our findings and research that can help provide insight on what to expect of the workforce in the coming year and beyond.
Our findings confirmed what we thought to be true: Workers understand what they deserve, and they’re ready to wield their newfound power to get it. But how will this affect employers and the future of work itself?
Let’s dive in to find out.
Welcome to the new normal.
As companies are opening their doors and office life picks back up, employees aren’t ready to give up their remote lifestyles. And the majority won’t ever be ready to give up. Now that the Covid-prompted mass layoffs are behind us, employees are feeling more confident in the opportunities available. If their company won’t offer remote options, they won’t stay. And it’s resulting in workers leaving their jobs en masse.
In FlexTal’s survey, only 33 percent of those polled planned on staying at their current job, with 40 percent of respondents considering leaving their current job. Only six percent were unsure.
Flexible options have already been established as a make or break for employees, but underutilization could be one reason why they’re cleaning up their LinkedIn profiles and protecting their tweets. The survey also unveiled that many workers feel underutilized in their current position (45 percent). Combine underutilization and lack of flexibility and you get one unhappy workforce.
Those jumping ship, however, aren’t necessarily going to another company. Many are finding opportunities as full-time freelancers. For many, getting laid off due to the pandemic meant scrambling to grab as many opportunities as possible, organically transitioning them into a freelance career and growing the freelance economy further.
For those that took the FlexTal survey, there is already interest in having the full-time flexibility that comes with working as a freelancer. When asked if dependable freelance income could be guaranteed, 40 percent of respondents said they would leave their current role to pursue a freelance career.
The option is there for those employees to say hello to the freelance life. And as the industry grows, so are the resources available to workers.
The future is flexible.
Data from the FlexTal survey confirmed that flexibility is likely here to stay, and workers will change their career plans to get it. Meanwhile, employers that are playing take backsies on working remotely are in for one of the biggest challenges of their lives, as 58 percent workers say they will quit if their employer does not continue to offer remote options. We’ve already heard boisterous statements from CEOs ranging from Netflix to Goldman Sachs, CEOs are having public temper tantrums over adapting to remote work indefinitely.
Just take Washington Media CEO Cathy Merrill, who used her own publication, The Washington Post, to declare in an op-ed that remote work will “errode” office culture. Shortly after the opinion piece was published, Marrill began getting ripped apart on Twitter — with many of those critics being her own staff. The piece inspired author Scott Berkun to write on why it’s the bad CEOs that fear remote work the most.
Responding directly to Merrill, Berkun wrote “her lack of awareness of [working alternatives] is incompetence. Second, she is infantilizing her employees by presuming they are not capable of and motivated to be productive and collaborate even when the CEO can’t see them down the hallway.”
Harsh. But fair, because data unanimously shows that people are more productive when they are remote, feel trusted by their employer and are happy. And what we’ve learned is happiness and remote working options have now melded together.
For workers that have bosses of the in-office persuasion, they have two options available: find another job that offers remote options or go it alone. And data is telling us that more people are preferring to go it alone. Taking into consideration freelance economy growth rates from 2016-2017, Statistica estimates there will be 90.1 million freelance workers by 2028 and that those solopreneurs will make up a majority of the workforce. With 12 percent of the U.S. workers turning to freelancing as a result of Covid-19, that growth has potential to be even larger.
The way we work is evolving every day, it’s vital that professionals invest their interests in this constantly shifting landscape. Flexibility and independence have made their stake in the workforce; now, it’s the employer’s turn to decide how they’ll respond, and their actions will make or break their success.
While the future is uncertain, FlexTal is committed to helping workers and employers adjust to these changes by monitoring these changes and strengthening their workforce to prepare for the future.
To read the full report and download a free copy, click here.
FlexTal is the #1 flexible talent matching platform leading the future of work. Every day, we match organizations small and large with elite independent contractors (AKA flexible talent) for flexible hourly and project-based engagements.