In the wise words of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
Coming into 2020, businesses around the world were equipped with fine-tuned plans for growth. Detailed strategies which would see their business solve the needs of clients, consumers and colleagues.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented punch in the face of the plans and strategies of businesses around the globe. But equally, modern technology means we have never been better prepared to take this hit and adapt.
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Times of great strife often bring out the best in human ingenuity. Necessity is the mother of invention, and as the world is turned on its head, there is opportunity for businesses to craft new ways of working which suit the needs of clients and employees alike.
As quarantine and social distancing measures are implemented, businesses need to find new ways to keep things running. Technology naturally has a key role to play here - with solutions that facilitate remote working attracting increased interest and investment.
Working from home will be a new concept to many - but for a significant part of the workforce this is life as normal (ish). In the UK, there are around 4.7 million gig-economy workers who work on short-term contracts - with the professional section of these, i.e. those offering skilled services across sectors on a one-off basis, largely working from home.
Long before ‘coronavirus’ was part of the vernacular, this invisible army of remote-workers has been supporting the foundations of businesses across the world.
The appeal of hiring freelancers from the professional gig economy is clear: these people are flexible, highly skilled and allow businesses to lower their fixed costs. This allows more agile team structuring, empowering organisations to tap into extra resources and secure different skill-sets at short notice. It’s important in this time of crisis that we support those people who choose to work more flexibly.
There are a number of benefits to this that we investigated in a recent report into the gig economy. In the UK there are 7.9 billion commuter journeys happening annually - with an average cost of £365 per month. In 2017, the average employee travelled 18 hours longer to and from work than 10 years prior. Research shows that embracing freelance working tactics would have a two-fold impact: adding £148bn to the economy in saved travel time, whilst also reducing carbon emissions by over 3 million tonnes a year.
It is possible that this pandemic will change how we work forever. Research has shown that non-freelance workers want more flexibility in their roles, and the current events are sure to lay the foundations for businesses to ensure all employees are easily able to work from home going forwards.
But more than this, it will be a direct challenge to preconceptions some businesses might have held about those who have always worked from home, opening doors to the network of professionals who drive business value from wherever they are in the world.
The professional gig economy was always on an upward trajectory. Forbes analysts suggested in early 2019 that “in the not-too-far-off future we’ll see an economy that has rebuilt itself on hundreds of millions of small businesses, rather than hundreds of millions of 9-5 jobs”.
As a new context envelops the market, alongside new emerging technology and shifting employer attitudes, this future is now closer, and approaching faster, than ever before.
Brands and agencies have been keen to define themselves as dynamic and agile in recent times - but now is the time to truly put this to the test. This pandemic is forcing our working culture to change, and businesses are going to have to learn how to roll with the punches and adapt. In the coming weeks and months we will see innovative solutions emerge that make working remotely as easy - and as effective - as it should be.
Luke Smith is CEO and co-founder of Croud.
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Luke Smith is the CEO and co-founder of Croud, a global digital marketing agency powered by the best talent, custom-built tech and the world's first crowd-sourced network of 2,400 digital experts - known as the Croudie Network. Founded in 2011, Croud provides services that include SEO, PPC, content, programmatic, paid social and analytics for some of the world's leading brands, including IWG, Avanti West Coast, AXA IM and Boohoo.