Current situation a silver lining for gig economy?

Companies have realised that work from home is very much possible and that too without compromising on productivity.

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Every cloud has a silver lining! Though it may have been forced, the lockdown has turned out to be a wake-up call for India Inc. Companies have realised that work from home is very much possible and that too without compromising on productivity.

Expressing optimism for the gig economy, SV Nathan, chief talent officer, Deloitte, says, “This is a great time for the gig economy. It will see a new overlay of talent that has always been hesitant to come out in the open.”

Advantages of hiring gig workers

The current situation has taught a few important lessons to India Inc.

Cuts overhead costs: Hiring gigs comes with added benefits. To retain an employee on payroll entails not just the cost of the employee, but multiple overhead costs. At the moment, overhead costs for many companies are on the high end. Due to the dip in business because employees have been unable to work, costs are increasing and companies are looking at ways to reduce this cost.

SV Nathan

This is a great time for the gig economy. It will see a new overlay of talent that has always been hesitant to come out in the open

“By hiring gig workers, one can get competent people, get them to work and incur no overhead. This is a big advantage for companies,” says Nathan.

Highlighting the same point, Ramesh Shankar Swaminathan, HR specialist and former head – HR,  Siemens India, says, “In every crisis, there is an opportunity. If any company can facilitate remote work, they can reduce office size, cut travel time for workers and cut overhead expenses by half.”

Work-from-home option becomes a reality: It is a win-win for those who wish to work remotely. There may be many individuals on a break from work for personal reasons and unable to join back because of their inability to leave their houses. For such employees as well, the current scenario is an assurance that working from home is possible.

Ensures competency: Hiring gigs will ensure that organisations bring on board competent people, who are already well trained for the job at hand. Work will be fast and efficient.
Opportunity for the workers

While organisations may be warming up to the idea of using the growing gig talent pool, the situation presents an opportunity to workers as well. Apart from the existing talent who already operate through gigs, individuals who are willing to adapt to the situation will be at an advantage. “Whether the gig economy will flourish or not, depends on the individuals themselves. Those who are willing to convert this into an opportunity will thrive and those who stick to the old ways are doomed,” opines Swaminathan.

Those who are willing to

Ramesh Shankar S

convert this into an opportunity will thrive and those who stick to the old ways are doomed

For instance, today, if a sales trainer is asked to conduct a session, he may refuse citing the impossibility of travelling in this situation. However, if he makes adjustments and converts his session into an online programme, he will be successful in making optimal use of the opportunity. Swaminathan goes on to add that the future is going to be dramatically different from the past and the only thing we can do is adjust to it. “Ability to adapt to the change, which one cannot anticipate, is going to determine success,” he explains.

Challenges going forward

Spring may be on the horizon for gig workers, but there are a couple of areas that companies may need to pay attention to, in order to avoid pitfalls. While there are roles that can easily move into the gig realm, what is missing is the technology using which companies will engage with the gig workers. Organisations will need to overcome the hurdles of compliance, data privacy and security. Moreover, for a few job roles, remote work will not be possible. For instance, banking regulatory policies do not allow employees to access confidential data outside of office, while other roles such as recruitment or marketing can be transferred to the digital realm.

In addition to the above, roles which require human traits of empathy, trust and collaboration, such as counsellors or nurses, cannot make the leap to gig work.

Uma Srinivasan

for a larger and organised structure to come about, technological investment, data privacy and cyber-security need to be looked at closely

According to Uma Srinivasan, head-talent acquisition, Larsen and Toubro, large corporates working across multiple geographies can significantly increase their bottom line profit margin by bringing in gig workers to chip in, do their bit, take their share and move on. “To do that, companies need to invest in robust technology, keeping in mind the compliance issues. While it is a good time for companies and workers to get a taste of it, for a larger and organised structure to come about, technological investment, data privacy and cybersecurity need to be looked at closely,” she elucidates.

Citing another challenge going forward, Nathan adds, “The problem with the gig economy right now is that it is not an organised sector. Moreover, there is no single robust platform, which advertises gig talent.”

The growth of gig work will possibly lead to a cultural change as well, by knocking over the assumption that serious work happens only in the office. There used to be a common perception that sitting at home does no good for a person, even if he or she is working from home. There is a chance that this too will change.

Another factor is that the new generation, which has already entered the workforce, comprises youngsters with an entirely different set of priorities. As Srinivasan points out, “Going forward, the question we may be asking ourselves is whether the new gen is willing to embrace the 9 to 6 working lifestyle!”

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