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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

Making a Go of Gig Work in the COVID Era

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A journalist by trade, Kerri Reeves has been in business for herself as a freelance writer and communications manager since 2012.

 

Reeves had more than a decade’s worth of experience covering the healthcare sector when she made the leap from trade magazine writer and editor to independent contractor. So, it makes sense that the bulk of her freelance business has always come from medical industry clients, for whom she provides writing, editing and social media materials.


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Keeping her professional focus on health care has served Reeves well since the coronavirus pandemic’s arrival in early 2020. Her workflow has remained steady throughout the last two years.

 

“When you write about health care, there’s always a story to be told during this pandemic,” Reeves recently told Workspan, noting the myriad challenges that healthcare providers have faced in the midst of COVID-19.  

 

“So, my workload didn’t just go away. There wasn’t really a slowdown at all. There’s a lot of demand for healthcare-related content.”  

 

For example, the surge in telemedicine usage during the pandemic has presented challenges for healthcare consumers and providers alike, and Reeves has crafted pieces on how providers have handled the transition from in-person patient visits to telehealth visits; a pivot that healthcare professionals had to make on a dime.

 

While the pipeline has remained fairly full for Reeves during the pandemic, some other gig workers haven’t fared as well in the past 24 months.

 

One analysis, for example, found 19% of gig drivers — those working for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft — collecting unemployment benefits in July 2020. The same report saw the number of other types of gig workers collecting unemployment cresting between 13% and 15% at the peak of the pandemic.

 

Naturally, the stay-at-home orders issued during the pandemic’s early months hamstrung gig workers who must still come in close contact with others in person — drivers, child care providers or cleaning services, for instance.

 

Still, there are gig workers who have thrived. For example, San Francisco-based grocery delivery company Instacart hired hundreds of thousands of new gig workers in early-to-mid 2020 to help meet the growing demand for grocery delivery services.

 

The need for such services has leveled off since those early days of the coronavirus, and many gig workers have undoubtedly come up against hardships throughout the past two-plus years. But there are signs that bode well for the gig economy’s long-term, post-pandemic outlook.  

 

More interactions are taking place online. Struggling to find talent to fill open roles and to work on critical projects, employers are expanding their candidate pools. And, maybe most notably, remote work has exploded since the pandemic’s onset, which means that more types of jobs can be performed by gig workers.

 

“The biggest way the pandemic has affected the gig economy has been to sound the alarm within organizations for new work strategies that shift the where, when and who of work beyond their organizational walls,” said Tracey Malcolm, global future of work and risk leader at Willis Towers Watson.

 

Willis Towers Watson’s recent “Global Reimagining Work & Rewards Survey adds evidence to the case for rethinking talent strategies to include more gig workers.  

 

The study of 1,650 organizations employing 11.9 million workers found more than 40% of companies saying they expect how they source talent to change in the next three years to include more contract and gig workers.

 

Around two in five of these same employers believe that how they source talent or the sort of jobs offered and type of work done will be “significant factors in how their work evolves over the next three years.” Close to half of the organizations surveyed said they believe that “building a talent ecosystem encompassing alternative work models will be an important HR capability” over the next three years.

 

The coronavirus pandemic, coupled with new technologies, has indeed “dramatically increased remote work, where employees become more independent, both in where and how they work,” said David Ulrich, a professor of business at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and co-founder of the RBL Group.

 

Ulrich acknowledges that gig work is “not for everyone,” noting the increased social isolation associated with remote and gig work as one potential drawback. But there are certainly many advantages for those going the gig route, such as increased flexibility and “more control over their work lives” that will continue to appeal to gig workers, he concluded. 

 

Likewise, these independent workers figure to appeal to more and more organizations in the days ahead, added Malcolm.

 

“Companies are redrawing the lines of their talent ecosystems and work models to include gig workers in order to access a greater array of skills,” she said, “and [companies have an opportunity to] make the ‘Great Resignation a ‘Great Reshuffle’ to improve organizational resilience.”

About the Author


Mark-McGraw (1).jpg Mark McGraw is the managing editor of Workspan. 


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