As improvements in technology change the modern workplace, the gig economy has emerged to offer an alternative to traditional offices.
The gig economy continues to offer a unique working environment thanks to improvements in digital platforms.
Over the last 30 years, the workplace has evolved due to an aging workforce, an increase in information and increasingly fast-paced working environments. Technology has had a helping hand in how workplace challenges are addressed while also increasing the number of people flocking to freelance work — otherwise known as the gig economy.
The last decade has seen an influx of people flocking to the gig economy. According to ADP research, six million workers have moved into the gig economy since 2010, marking a 15 percent rise in the last decade.
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Economic conditions driving the gig economy
The gig economy refers to temporary or freelance jobs that are largely conducted online. Most people in this type of employment do not operate in a standard work environment but rather work independently, therefore relying solely on technology to communicate with the company or employer they have been contracted to work with.
Most gig workers are essentially capable of working anywhere an internet connection is available. This has lead technology companies such as Uber (NYSE:UBER) and Instacart to open up the doors for freelancers looking for work.
So far, 2020 has been an unprecedented year for both the traditional workforce and the freelancing economy. The COVID-19 virus, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11 2020, has left people unemployed and caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, altering how the common office workplace functions while also driving competition within the gig economy workforce due to job market volatility.
In just a short amount of time, the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the workplace has created long-term changes in people, technologies and the organizations they work for. Some significant changes include an increase in flexibility, increased reliance on digital platforms and the growth of digital infrastructures.
Under this new normal a number of digital platforms have flourished thanks to an increase in demand for online connectivity. Zoom (NASDAQ:ZM), an online video-conferencing service, has risen in popularity since the pandemic, allowing individuals and organizations to transition to remote work easily. In March 2020, Zoom reached a total of 200 million active daily users, with its revenues reaching US$328 million in its fiscal Q1 2021 results, up 169 percent from the previous year.
The video-conferencing company credited COVID-19 to its surge in growth, citing that the pandemic has “has driven higher demand for distributed, face-to-face interactions and collaboration using Zoom.” In a post-COVID-19 world, organizations like Zoom and those leveraging its platform for remote working arrangements may need to reconsider the strength of their digital infrastructure as the global workforce embraces the potential of online work.
Digital infrastructure and the gig economy
There are a number of different ways companies can embrace the trend towards digital workplaces, including improvements to corporate security policies such as firewall protection, device restrictions, and two-factor authentication systems. Additionally, technologies such as virtual desktop platforms have the potential to reduce issues related to remote workplace challenges. Moving forward, companies that have already embraced the gig economy and the digital infrastructure it relies upon have the potential to thrive in a world that is increasingly reliant on communication and collaboration between workers in different locations.
Due to the scope and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the extent to which the gig economy challenges the traditional workforce remains to be seen, as a global economic crisis still hangs in the balance. With incumbent companies beginning to embrace change, small-cap companies like DGTL Holdings Inc. (TSXV:DGTL), a technology-focused investment company that is acquiring and accelerating its portfolio of fully-commercialized companies in emerging spaces, are leveraging digital platforms in order to assist gig economy workers in the future and beyond.
DGTL HOldings acquired #Hashoff in April 2020, a company leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to empower brands and advertising agencies through content management services. “Hashoff is able to develop new content for brand marketing campaigns, in real-time, in market, and hyper-localized if necessary, in a matter of days, versus. weeks or months,” Michael Racic, CEO of DGTL Holdings, said.
Racic explained that this is specific to the content-as-a-service (Caas) component, but can also apply to ConnectTV and the gaming space due to the abilities innovators and entrepreneurs have to monetize and commercialize assets without the burden of over-monopolized distribution networks with barriers to entry for developers, publishers or gamers.
With an increase in the number of digital devices at home and in the workplace, the need for content is also on the rise. Racic points out that this creates the need for fast, efficient and effective means of new content creation, which he feels could become a critical factor to stay relevant for brands in the new gig economy. “It is for this reason we see a huge explosion of new self-service SaaS platforms, especially in the digital media, adtech and martech space,” Racic said.
Under these new economic conditions, freelancers and gig workers have an opportunity to become the frontline for innovation. New technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have similarly created new opportunities for growth, with nimble freelancers best-position to take advantage of these breakthroughs. As the modern workplace continues to embrace trends in technology and improvements to digital platforms, innovative organizations and employees both have an opportunity to leverage these capabilities in order to work more efficiently. As shown by the rise of platforms like Zoom, businesses and employees have been forced to adapt quickly to changing economic conditions, placing an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability.
The digitization of the workplace has been slowly increasing for decades, however, recent shifts in economic conditions have emphasized the importance of digital platforms and their ability to facilitate communication, coordination and collaboration throughout the world. Nimble companies and individuals capable of leveraging these digital tools have an opportunity to thrive in this new workplace environment, with the gig economy offering a working model capable of challenging the traditional employer-employee agreement.
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