I/O Psychologist specialized in Leadership/ HR Consulting, Workplace Redesign & Training | Healthy workplaces. Leaders of Tomorrow Institute
It is said that alcohol amplifies what you feel inside. If you are a joyful person, you won’t stop laughing and giggling after a few drinks. But if you’re already sad inside, a few drinks will only make you more depressed. I like to think in these terms when it comes to how the workforce feels about our “new normal” post-pandemic.
What we are witnessing here is the acceleration of a trend that was underlying for quite some time. Propelled by the millennia, most people dreamed of a flexible workplace, an a la carte education or an exotic relocation by project — the sort that would require travel and discovering foreign cultures while exploring personal development all at once. A job that could be designed around a personal lifegoal, mood or family priority. This is beyond “working from home,” as home can now be anywhere in the world. This is what we call the gig economy.
We are abandoning the centuries-old model of education and work where our entire lives revolve around a workplace and shifting to a society where the workplace follows us wherever we wish to go.
Obviously not every employer can offer this sort of flexibility yet, but they will compete heavily with those that can, as 54% of the American workforce hopes to work remotely for good.
And can we really blame them? Living around a workplace has forced millions to relocate to a region they might not like. It has driven the cost of living above what anyone would have sensibly agreed to pay. People’s glasses are overfilled with stress and worry for the sake of fulfilling basic necessities such as housing, transportation and groceries. Who will continue to cheer for that?
The workforce is ready! They’re ready to upgrade their skill sets and knowledge without spending years at the same institution to learn obsolete or inadequate subjects offered by traditional education institutions, no matter how good the football team is. They will no longer wait for speculators and bankers to tell them it’s the right time to buy in an already overpriced market when they can live in a breathtaking sea view villa somewhere warm and exotic for a fraction of the price.
The shift is so profound that we are no longer talking about working from home a few miles away from your ex-office, but moving away altogether for a more fulfilling and adventurous life.
Employers, as it stands today, have only agreed to let employees work from home, keeping a leash on their recruits as they could easily be called on-site within minutes. But as the gig economy is writing new pages of our history, the workforce is going to spread across the globe, and employers will have to adapt or close their doors.
The good news is that companies can truly recruit a dream team consisting of employees across time zones, skills, cultures and languages that could potentially attract a diverse clientele. Dispatched around the world, there could always be someone working for you, available to address any issues at any given time.
The gig economy would mean the end of overcrowded megacities that drag natural resources to their limit, making us reach the Earth Overshoot Day earlier and earlier each year. It would also mean the end of the overpriced housing market, infinite traffic jams and overstressed populations. The shift may even ease the effect of our carbon footprint and improve our quality of air significantly.
As an organizational psychologist, I can understand that unknown territory creates fear among those less equipped for change. However, I am quite confident in saying that the younger generation can hardly wait to improve their personal development goals and objectives.
We have entered the gig economy, and it is here to stay. Those who still fantasize of a colonized workforce and refuse to let go of absolute control are in for a rude awakening. It’s time that we close this chapter of our common history and open a new one where everyone matters.
To quote Kyoshi Suzaki: “The vertical division of labor, according to which there are people who think and others who execute, represents veritable social mutilation: on one hand it encloses a crowd of people in a dehumanized frame, on the other hand, it despises the capacity for evaluation and proposal that exists in any participant and in a particular action or process.”
If the gig economy can repair our disconnected social interaction, fix our environmental problems and re-humanize our world, I, for one, would cheer for that!