Autumn is moving in; the days are slightly chillier, and, in Ohio, the school buses are busy transporting kids back to school. With Labor Day weekend behind us, I’m reminded of those odious essays we’d have to write upon returning to the classroom as a child: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” I remember thinking it was hard enough to come back to school, much less write about the glorious summertime activities we’d just left behind.
And yet, recapping the highlights of a summer vacation well spent, brought back pleasant memories in those days. As it does today.
How I spent my summer vacation this year…And why I love the Gig Economy.
I hadn’t intended to take the summer off. But, after finishing up a twenty-month gig, I came down with bronchitis (and there, along with writing three white papers,) went the month of June. Two days after the Fourth of July, while out walking, I fell hard on an uneven concrete sidewalk and gave myself serious internal bruising and strained muscles. And there went the month of July. After that, two heavenly weeks camping on the coast of Maine, and time spent with family in Vermont, and there went the summer.
Was this a problem? Not at all. Since I work for myself, I had the flexibility to spend time getting over bronchitis, healing from my bumps and bruises, and enjoying the ocean in Maine. I’m a cheerful member of the Gig Economy, and I value the flexibility of making my own schedule, working from where ever I am, and working for myself or as part of another company’s team— or both. I’ve been working like this since 1993, for the most part, and I am a proponent of its many benefits.
According to a survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit organization that advocates for independent workers, and Upwork, the largest online freelance marketplace, 55 million people work on a freelance basis today. That’s 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce—a number predicted to grow to 43 percent by the year 2020, said Intuit CEO, Brad Smith. Many people work a side hustle to make ends meet, and many others work like this because they want to. The number of companies willing to hire independent contractors or build teams with people who work remotely continues to grow as our society, and its workplaces continue to evolve. Welcome to the Gig Economy.
The definition of work is changing—for the better.
Our workplaces are changing to incorporate digital technology, artificial intelligence, blended workforces complete with employees, remote workers, and independent contractors. The future of work will include elements of each of these as the number of organizations embracing them grows. “Automation, cognitive computing, and crowds are paradigm-shifting forces that will reshape the workforce now and in the near future. Organizations are redesigning jobs to take advantage of cognitive systems and robots…” state the authors of Deloitte’s white paper, “The future of work: The augmented workforce. 2017 Global Human Capital Trends.”
While there are still those CEOs who prefer to run their companies using more traditional employment practices, the genie is out of the bottle. The digital revolution makes alternative working models worth consideration and implementation for many brands. And, for the workers who are looking for the next gig. For myself? My summer vacation was beautiful, relaxing, healing. I’m digging into the next project, scheduling new gigs for the balance of Q4, and happily scanning the horizon for the projects to come in 2018.
A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn Pulse.