The gig economy—or freelance work—has gained traction in the past few years, especially with young professionals. Nearly half (46%) of Generation Z workers are freelancers, and that number is only expected to grow, as approximately 61 million Gen Zers will be joining the workforce in the next few years.
With this trend on the horizon, the 2018 AT&T Business Summit hosted a panel on Thursday about the topic. Aptly titled "Thriving in the Gig Economy and Your Digital Workplace," the discussion explored changes companies can expect from a growing gig economy.
SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (Tech Pro Research)
The appeal of gig work lies in the autonomy it offers, said panelist Maria Pardee, DXC Technology's senior vice president. She explained how this next generation of employees wants their own devices, wants to work when they want, and wants to work how they want.
"Employers need to have this kind of flexibility in order to drive the productivity they need," stated Pardee. While this type of work is vastly different from traditional working America, times are changing, and so is technology.
While a company may want to offer flexibility and options to employees, a challenges lie in making the tech secure and scalable, said panelist Pete Tapley, Americas sales leader at DXC Technology. In order to make the gig economy function successfully, automation and configurability must be considered, said Tapley.
The gig economy is fast paced, and younger people are impatient. "We don't have time in the gig economy to get on the same communication platforms," said Tapley, so companies will have to work to find a way to unify communication practices.
Additionally, the gig economy doesn't allow time for pointless manual tasks, Tapley said. "We don't have time for someone to push a button or to wire something; these things need to be proactive," said added.
However, technology will really be the main driver of a gig workforce, said both Pardee and Tapley. The gig economy includes people in an office, as well as people in the field, and a ubiquitous network is currently hard to achieve overall, said Tapley. But with software-defined networks and 5G, we can assume there will always be the ability to be online, added Tapley.
As for the time-wasting manual tasks, artificial intelligence (AI) will prove to be the answer, according to Pardee and Tapley. They predict AI will become so integrated into troubleshooting strategies that it will be able to fix problems on devices before users even know something is wrong.
Looking to step into the gig economy market? Check out this TechRepublic article for three tech skills that will make you a competitive applicant.
- The gig economy: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Flexible working: How to help your company make the shift (ZDNet)
- 5G mobile networks: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- The need for automation skills is exploding, freelance survey finds (ZDNet)
- Why gig workers in finance will grow 88% in the next three years (TechRepublic)
Macy Bayern has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.