If you’ve ever caught an Uber ride, booked a stay in a Airbnb or used a platform like Upwork to hire out services for an upcoming project, you’ve seen the gig economy in action. Nearly 30 million Americans—or a fifth of the total workforce—get their primary income from gig or part-time work, says a 2019 employee benefits trend study by MetLife. And 15 million more workers are supplementing full-time jobs with gig or freelance work, the study reveals.

Rise of the Gig Economy

Since the term was coined in the wake of the 2008 recession, more workers have been turning to short-term or project-based work for steady employment in an economy where layoffs across all industries have become commonplace. Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of workers doing temporary, on-call or contract work rose from 10 to 15 percent, according to research by economists at Harvard and Princeton universities.

The growth of companies leveraging cloud and mobile technologies, GPS and social platforms over the past decade has fueled the gig economy even more, reshaping how people work and providing them with seamless platforms for connecting to employers as well as customers and clients.

Jobs in the gig economy are defined by work based on a fixed-term contract or paid per project by a company, third party or online marketplace. But what differentiates these jobs is the flexibility and freedom they provide. They allow workers to set flexible schedules, work where they want and pursue a variety of projects—an arrangement most find highly satisfying.

Up to 85 percent of gig workers say they are interested in continuing contract work over the next five years, as opposed to landing more traditional jobs, the MetLife study notes.

More Employees Going Gig 

The gig economy is attracting more than just typical freelancers or part-timers. A growing number of full-time employees (20 percent) are earning extra money through side gigs, and a majority of them (67 percent) say they are more interested in gig work than their current jobs, Metlife reports.

Even more telling: Almost half of them (49 percent) intend to leave their current employer for contract or freelance work in the next five years.

What These Gig Economy Statistics Mean for You

As the gig economy continues to evolve and the best and brightest workers turn to this type of work for their primary employment, businesses will need to get more creative about how they recruit and retain talent. Instead of fretting about star employees abandoning your company for gig work or competing with gig employers for talent, now is the time to focus on developing better strategies for retaining your full-time staff while also tapping into the potential of the gig economy and its expanding pool of freelancers.

Whether you are trying to dissuade current employees from pursuing gig work or attract the best gig workers for short-term or contract needs, understanding what these workers desire and providing more of these benefits can help you keep pace with the gig economy and maximize its advantages.

Flexible workplaces and schedules. Those interested in gig work don’t want to be restricted to the same office or 9-to-5 schedule every day. They want the flexibility to work remotely and adjust their day so they can achieve a better work-life balance. More than half (53 percent) of full-time employees surveyed by MetLife say they want employers to offer flexible work schedules, while 49 percent of gig workers cite not being able to work remotely as the reason they left full-time work.

Diverse and meaningful assignments. Those who are drawn to the gig economy are seeking greater variety, interest and purpose in the work they do. At least 48 percent of gig workers say they work to gain a sense of fulfillment, while 24 percent say pursuing a new passion motivates them to continue gigging.

Better benefits. Gig workers share the same financial stressors as full-time employees, with many craving the stability of traditional benefits such as healthcare coverage, retirement plans and paid time off. At least 43 percent of gig workers say employers can offer better benefits to attract them to full-time jobs, while 29 percent of full-time workers who plan to leave their jobs for gig employment admit better benefits might make them stay.

More training and networking opportunities. Most gig workers (90 percent) rank career development as a must-have benefit in whatever work they choose. Employers can entice both gig and full-time workers by creating more opportunities inside and outside the workplace for training and networking.

Talk to someone at XMI today to learn about things you can do to stay ahead of the constantly evolving jobs marketplace.


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