Using Business Communications to Boost the Gig Economy

Today's business environment is radically different from the days when people worked at a single company for most of their lives. Going to work meant commuting to a physical location and working in an office, manufacturing plant, store, etc. for eight hours a day. Boy have things changed!

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure in a single company dropped to 4.2 years in 2016. Many millennials switch jobs on a semi-regular basis, especially in areas such as Silicon Valley where tech workers move from one job to another as often as some car owners change their oil. More and more companies rely on remote and part-time workers, with 20-40% of companies contractors and other remote workers in the past year.

The "new normal" is a more temporary work environment, sometimes called the "gig economy." Characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work, as well as "side gigs" such as driving for Uber or Lyft, the gig economy includes self-employed, temp workers, contractors, freelancers, on-call workers, and part-time employees who get paid per gig, project, or contract.

This new type of worker isn't just driving for Uber -- they're bookkeepers, software programmers, Web designers, content writers, etc. According to a survey by research firm Clutch, nearly one-third of companies hire temporary workers who offer technical skills, including experience with analytics, IT, and data science, as well as Web, mobile, or software development.

 

 

Collaboration Challenges
As more and more businesses rely on temporary and contract workers who often work remotely, they need to find ways to integrate these workers into their organizations. This includes giving them tools that will make them as effective and productive as possible. From a productivity perspective, the gig economy and the new type of workforce presents several challenges -- especially for job functions that require collaboration with colleagues and coworkers. Hiring remote, contract, and temporary workers can create a lack of consistency and continuity in the workplace, as workers come and go on a regular basis. Some workers may feel isolated from the rest of the company, especially if they never see their managers or colleagues face to face. Working collaboratively with virtual team members can be extremely challenging.

Fortunately, business communications technologies can help this new type of worker feel more connected, while improving the collaboration experience. Any organization with temporary, contract, freelance, or remote workers should consider using these tools to help workers be more productive and engaged, while reducing their communication costs.

  • Cloud-based unified communications: The cloud makes it easier for people in any location to work together, while providing a more cost-effective solution for businesses. Using a mobile app or browser-based soft client to access their communication options, users can work from anywhere they have a broadband connection. Businesses don't need to spend money on desktop phones for temporary workers, and can scale up and down, paying only for the licenses needed.
  • Team collaboration tools like Cisco Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams, RingCentral Glip, Slack, and Unify Circuit help virtual teams easily work together on projects in real time and not in real time. Team collaboration applications provide a persistent and secure place to store files, documents, and conversations, enabling temporary or part-time workers to access the information they need, when they need it. Gig workers can access the information they need and communicate with the people with the expertise they need.
  • To help remote workers feel more connected, video conferencing and enterprise social media applications can help overcome the isolation some workers may feel, while enabling a more engaged workforce. Remote workers can communicate with each another using enterprise social media capabilities, or via the team collaboration or UC application's chat capabilities. With video conferencing, workers can be hundreds or thousands of miles apart, and still communicate with coworkers and managers. Being able to "see" each other helps break the ice, as workers can have more personal interactions. Reducing isolation, video conferencing helps improve communication with managers, coworkers, clients, and suppliers.
  • Enterprise social media applications let workers interact in an interactive community, including chat rooms, forums, wikis, blogs, information bases, IM, and more. By increasing access to necessary information and providing the tools to collaborate effectively, companies can help their gig workers do their jobs more effectively.
  • Training: UC tools, such as video conferencing and collaboration, can be used to train gig workers job-specific knowledge, certification, etc.

Open Workspaces, Opening Up Problems
Recognizing that many of the gig/contract/temporary workers don't go to the office on a regular basis (if at all), some companies are moving to flexible workspaces that replace assigned offices and cubicles with open work areas for mobile, remote, and temporary workers to use as needed. By transforming their offices to new flexible workspaces that optimize office space for telecommuters, temporary workers, and a smaller number of full-time in-office workers, companies can save money on real estate while reducing their carbon footprints.

Unfortunately, one result of these open workspaces is increased noise and distraction, as well as a lack of privacy, reducing overall productivity. Headsets with active noise cancellation capabilities can reduce the distractions and make workers more productive.

Featuring meeting and conference rooms with state-of-the-art video conferencing and collaboration technologies including smartboards, these new workspaces allow virtual teams in any location to work more collaboratively and effectively, increasing productivity.

Are you a gig worker or do you employ freelance, temporary, or part-time workers? Which business communications tools and technologies have you found to be the most useful or which do you wish you had? I'd love to hear from you at [email protected].

BCStrategies is an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.