By James Maddock, Head of Global Occupier Services, EMEA
Ever dream of having the flexibility to work wherever you want? Working less, but getting paid more? Setting your own hours? Ultimately being your own boss?
Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Thanks to free communication channels and globalised networks, this dream has become an achievable reality for the fast growing ‘Gig Economy,’ which is comprised of up to 20-30% of the working population or 162m people worldwide.
The ‘gig’ workers – often referred to as consultants, contractors, freelancers or temp workers – are ultimately changing the corporate landscape and how we work. Companies can now much more easily hire non-permanent employees on an as-needed basis, while gig workers are enjoying the freedom, flexibility and work life balance they crave. Everyone wins.
Well, maybe not everyone. Gig workers do lack healthcare benefits and job security, and a small percentage would prefer a traditional job, but haven’t found the right role. But even with these drawbacks, 40% of the workforce will be freelancers, independent contractors, and ‘solopreneurs’ by 2020. This statistic alone speaks volumes about the impact the gig economy is sure to have on the workplace of the future.
The Gig Economy Is Here To Stay
Globalisation of work, global trade and technology shifts, like the rise of smartphones, are huge contributors to the gig economy – these trends aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, by 2020, 80% of the world’s population will own a smartphone, according to The Economist. And with more data being created in the last three years than in the entire previous history of the human race, it’s pretty clear the gig economy is here to stay.
Saying Goodbye To The Traditional Workplace
The gig is up. Since we are working differently now, corporate workplaces must be prepared to support these changes. To this end, firms are increasingly redesigning their offices to provide fewer private offices and cubicles, and more open and collabourative space to address the fact that 30-50% of their workforce are not actual employees. The goals are twofold: first, to provide workplaces that facilitate discussion and collabouration. Second, to decrease the firm’s overall rent bill by providing less physical space to the worker.
Contracting and collabourative workplaces are key factors in why office vacancies remain elevated even with our economy at full employment, and why so little office space is being built. Continued economic and job growth won’t change that. We need just as much office space.
More and more gig workers are utilizing co-working or callabourative spaces such as Regus, the industry leader in shared work space, which has 3,000 locations in 900 cities across the globe or WeWork, which claims 50,000 members who work in its spaces.
Together, they and other providers of co-working space have leased several million square feet of space in the past few years and that trend is sure to continue with the growth of this economy.
The gig economy also impacts traditional corporate culture and employee engagement. With so many contractors in the mix, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate a commitment to all workers – whether full time or temporary. When all workers are engaged, they are more likely to be committed to company goals. Plus, you never know where a contractor may end up. They could return as a full time employee or even work for for one of your clients one day.
How CRE Executives Can Plan For The Future
Now more than ever, CRE needs to secure a seat at the table with other business unit leaders when discussing the company’s strategy and forward-looking plans. There needs to be a good understanding of not only who will be using the space, but how and when they will be using it. Different groups should be considered and consulted with when planning. For instance, according to Deloitte, 70% of millennials might reject traditional employment/business and choose to work independently in the future. Given this reality, this group’s work styles should definitely be addressed. In addition, artificial intelligence and robotics will be more prevalent in the near future and their presence should be factored into the planning as well.
Armed with this type of information, businesses that will be successful in the future will be those who break down barriers between people, workplaces, and technologies and empower their employees to be productive and creative no matter where they are.
James has more than 20 years of commercial property experience and works closely with companies to align their real estate strategy with their business objectives. He is responsible for the EMEA team’s account management of the full range of Cushman & Wakefield’s technical and consultancy services for global clients ranging from strategic, advisory, and transactional through to project management.