We’ve seen the statistics, we’ve read the predictions- the world is quickly going freelance. Probably the most popular of these predictions was one brought forward by a Forbes article over 4 years ago, foreseeing an over 50% freelance workforce in the US by 2027. And this was before the pandemic, an era that has accelerated the adoption of remote work, which is the life and soul of the gig economy. Currently, out of a global workforce of 3.3 billion people, it is estimated that over 1.1 billion work in the freelance industry.
But what would the world look like if everyone on the globe worked as a freelancer? 20 years ago, this would have been an unsubstantiated thought to entertain. But now, in the tech-forward world we live in, where tools that make virtual work and collaboration effective are readily available, and with ideas like the metaverse being designed and implemented, this thought may not be that far fetched.
Imagine a world where the benefits of freelancing are experienced universally. Where we all get to set our own schedules, work on projects that excite us, work remotely full time and get to set and negotiate our pay. What would that world look like? In this blog, we dive into this futuristic world, to get a glimpse of what the coming days have in store.
1. The environment would benefit greatly
Photo courtesy of Deloitte.
A scientific report released by the United Nations in August shows that nations have delayed curbing their use of fossil fuels for far too long, that the impacts of global warming to be experienced in the next 30 years are unavoidable.
Reports like these articulate what we already know; we have not been mindful of our planet. From melting ice caps, to devastating floods, heatwaves and wildfires that have intensified in the past few years, rapid action is required if our stay on this planet is to be safeguarded.
One of the ways that can help slow down global warming is remote work. It is estimated that working away from a conventional office setup can help reduce greenhouse emissions by 54 million tonnes annually (for 2.5 people out of 5 working remotely).
If we don’t have to go to physical workspaces every day, imagine how much less gas we would use on commutes and how much fresher the air in cities would become? Data shows that working from home could reduce emissions at the same rate as 10 million vehicles being removed off the road.
Energy savings would also go through the roof. According to this website, businesses spend over 250,000kWh per year, compared to just 10,000kWh spent by a typical household for the same period. If everyone worked from home, companies wouldn’t have to worry about providing thousands of dollars’ worth of lighting and heating for their employees. In a home office set up, only computers and a few other personal use appliances would be necessary, but these appliances don’t expend that much energy. Plus, with communication being virtual almost all the time, printing physical documents would be close to zero which would reduce the cutting down of trees to manufacture paper.
2. The commercial real estate market would be in decline
Photo courtesy of Costar.
With employees working from home almost the whole of last year, many companies were forced to downsize their office spaces in a bid to cut costs. Companies like Deloitte in the U.K closed down some of its branches, and another one, REI in the US sold its new campus (one that had been under construction since 2016) without employees ever setting foot in it. REI opted to set up offices in satellite locations instead to serve smaller employee groups throughout the city of Seattle.
As businesses try to strike a balance between remote and in-person work, many are at a loss as to how much office space they need. But in a world fully remote, things would be more cut-and-dried. When employees work from wherever they choose, and come into the office when the need arises, companies will find themselves holding on to smaller spaces.
The pandemic has forced companies to rethink the role the traditional office plays in their corporate strategy, and whether it is as vital as it was made out to be pre-pandemic. Some experts are even going as far as saying that the 9-5 workday is dead, which hints to the possible collapse of the commercial office space market. Companies like Facebook, Salesforce and Spotify have already pledged to make their employees work remotely forever, so they will not need those large spaces that they had in the past.
In a fully freelance world, employers would not have to worry about providing equipment, or conducive physical spaces for their employees to work, which would reduce their overhead significantly. Employees on the other hand, would benefit from working from wherever they please, and completely be free from the work-induced stress that is synonymous with corporate offices.
3. Hiring bias would be reduced
The conventional work paradigm as we know is not as transparent as we’d like it to be. The gender pay gap is a hot button issue, minority races and people with disabilities are discriminated against, and the whole system works in favour of those who are at the helm of it. However, in the freelance world, these prejudices are far less pronounced. The pay gap for instance, is much lower and the remote work setup allows women to continue working almost seamlessly after they give birth, saving them from the dreadful motherhood tax. According to this Payoneer report, female freelancers earned more than men in countries like Bolivia and Indonesia, and in Mexico and Romania, freelancers enjoyed equal pay.
A world where we all work freelance, would be a world where skills matter more than race, gender and religion, so people would get hired for their value addition, not their background.
For disabled people, who have been overlooked for opportunities for fear that they would underperform, find solace and success in the gig industry. If the world were fully freelance, a person with a disability would be considered for a position just as easily as the next person because, first off, they wouldn’t need to disclose their ailment to their employer; secondly, with a flexible work schedule, they’d be able to plan their time accordingly and attend doctors’ appointments as they need to without having to ask for a day off; and finally, employers wouldn’t feel the need to bypass them to avoid additional costs of making their office spaces more accessible.
Freelancers, no matter their background, are also adept at pivoting and learning new skills, so we’d live in a world where up-skilling and innovation were at an all-time high. According to a survey, 55% of freelancers participated in skill-related education in the last six months of the survey, compared to 30% of non-freelancers.
The Future is Now
Everyday, we’re inching closer and closer to this freelance utopia. If you haven’t joined the movement yet, it’s not too late. Sign up on Ureed.com today to unlock the future of work.