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More Gigs in the Gig Economy: A Third of All Workers Doing Independent Work

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 17, 2016 3:56 PM

This isn't your parents' employer-employee relationship. In just the latest signal that what we consider the "workplace" is ever-evolving, a new survey of workers in the U.S. and five European countries found that 20 to 30 percent of the workforce engages in independent work. And not all of them are doing it by choice.

While some of us are happy to take on some side projects, others must cobble together enough independent work to make ends meet. Here's a closer look at the numbers, and what they could mean for your small business.

Maybe Quit Your Day Job (If You Can Even Get One)

The study, authored by the McKinsey Global Institute, broke workers down into four discreet groups, based on whether they are doing independent work voluntarily and whether that work is their primary or supplemental income:

  1. Free Agents: Workers who actively choose independent work, and derive their primary income from it.
  2. Casual Earners: Workers who do independent work by choice, and use independent work for supplemental income.
  3. Reluctants: Workers who would prefer a traditional job, but make their primary living from independent work.
  4. The Financially Strapped: workers who do supplemental independent work out of necessity.

Unsurprisingly, those who seek out independent work are more happy than those forced into it. Free agents and casual earners (who make up 70 percent of those engaged in independent work) reported a greater satisfaction with their work lives than the reluctants and the financially strapped, and free agents even showed more satisfaction than even the casual earners, or those finding independent work on top of their 9-to-5.

Independents' Day

If free agents are generally happier, does that mean you improve your employees' happiness by making them not employees? There are pros and cons to hiring independent contractors, and there are definite penalties if you're not clear on the distinction. But it may come down to the industry you're in and the kind of staff you want. While those actively seeking independent work are happy to do it, keep in mind those forced into it are much less so. There are more gigs than ever in the gig economy, but that doesn't mean that everyone is enjoying the show.

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