Work used to be a fairly straightforward concept. A person that performed a specific task for a set number of hours would receive a predetermined wage. However, the rapid advancement of technologies combined with changing market economies has challenged what work means nowadays.
Take Airbnb, a service that enables people to rent out lodging for money; money that can then serve as a primary, or supplemental, source of income. Through Task Rabbit, users have the ability to find “Taskers” to help with everyday errands. On Etsy, people sell handmade and vintage items to customers around the world through just a few clicks or swipes. And then there’s Uber, which touts itself as a “transportation network company.” Perhaps the most revolutionary of these examples, working for Uber means that with a car and smartphone, anyone can sign up to be their own boss according to their schedule. What all of these companies have in common is that they support the basic idea of people earning money for services provided. The difference is whether or not each is work.
Prompting a nationwide debate, the question of what it means to work and be a worker is making waves in the Department of Labor while presidential hopefuls are incorporating the topic into campaign speeches even at this early stage in the game. In the meantime, more traditional employers are struggling to make sense of this growing workforce trend, looking for ways to stay competitive and improve productivity.
With so many tools promoting unconventional forms of work, there a surprisingly less options for potential employers. Sure, there are staffing platforms that help organizations find the workers but then what? Who is there to verify skills and backgrounds, or manage legions of freelancers pitching in to drive a project to completion? This is where the real thinking begins.
Work will always be work, no matter what form or shape the task takes – provided there’s a paycheck at the end of day, week, month or year. But working world, the one that’s driving business forward and helping to advance society as a whole is at a crossroads. Without the structure and security of the W-2, employers need to take a new approach to working with contract, contingent and freelance talent. Solutions such as Work Market are starting to make waves, offering employers a Freelance Management System, otherwise known as an FMS. And with these technologies comes the opportunity to build a flexible workforce who is ready, willing and able to meet changing business needs anytime and anywhere.
It’s still too soon to tell if the image of the man in the gray flannel suit will disappear forever, but it is safe to say that the world is being reworked to fit a time where technology rules and work is what the worker makes it to be.