The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll on the American economy, forcing employers to furlough workers and spurring massive unemployment—more than a million new claims are now filed in the US each week. And as COVID-19 continues to spread, a huge contingent of American workers will continue to be affected, and be forced to find alternate sources of income.
A new global tech platform called CareerGig intends to address the problem, not only offering a space to connect employers and freelance workers, but to give workers some much-needed security: The chance to have benefits. And as COVID-19 has caused layoffs, it has also radically altered the concept of the workplace for professionals, with many employers instituting work-from-home policies, and the virtual workplace has become the new normal—so this kind of remote workplace appears well-suited for the current climate.
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On July 13, CareerGig will launch its freelance marketplace. While the concept is “not new,” said Greg Kihlström, CEO and co-founder of CareerGig, he believes it will be a major improvement by offering the “the best decentralized marketplace that can offer benefits to freelancers.”
Through partnerships with insurance companies, Kihlström said, CareerGig has been able to use collective bargaining power to secure rates that “meet and exceed what you could get at a full-time job.
Freelancers—the company is geared toward knowledge workers like software engineers, paralegal, and human resources—can access traditional benefits, like health insurance, as well as additional offerings like retirement plans and disability insurance. Health insurance must follow guidelines, and can be available to employees who work a total around 20 hours a week (depending on the location)—which can be spread out across different jobs on the platform.
And CareerGig is built on blockchain technology, which means that employers can verify that they are hiring the right employees by doing things like actual background verification and peer verification using immutable records. “We are big fans of blockchain and its potential, and none of us believe that blockchain’s potential has truly been utilized to its fullest extent,” Kihlström said.
The idea for CareerGig came to Kihlström after he sold his marketing agency a couple of years ago. When he got into customer experience, he started thinking “well, what makes a great employee experience?”
The answer, he realized, was not just about benefits, but flexibility. One thing that many full-time employees don’t have is the flexibility to live and “the freedom to work wherever you want.” So the ideal situation, to foster an environment that produces “happy people that do great work … requires both stability and flexibility.”
CareerGig follows in the footsteps of the major employment marketplace LinkedIn. But unlike LinkedIn, which is built around a full-time employment model, CareerGig—like Upwork and Freelancer.com—wants to “really showcase the achievements of freelancers, that don’t always translate well on sites like LinkedIn,” Kihlström said. “Doing a six-month project isn’t a failure—it means you completed a task and moved on.”
The platform can also encourage those currently in full-time positions to make the shift to freelance work. “A major barrier to making the leap into freelance is the unknown—the lack of security,” Kihlström says. “Full-time employment has a reputation for being a more stable decision. But you could get furloughed at a moment’s notice. With COVID, no one could have planned for what just happened.”
He was previously involved in startups, but admits that there’s a high bar to start a company, and wants to “lower the friction to people being able to work on their own.”
Through the CareerGig platform, companies can find, interview, hire, and pay new employees. And small businesses who may be eager to give employees benefits, but find the cost prohibitive, can use it as a one-stop shop, paying and eventually issuing W-2s to their employees. “Why not offer small companies that are struggling to keep their employees?” Kihlström posits.
CareerGig is touting itself as a platform for workers in an age of uncertainty. “We all know so many people who have been affected by recent events and are struggling with the question of whether to go back to a full time job,” Kihlström said. “We’ve taken for granted that full-time jobs are more stable than they are. I want to show people that there might be a better way for them.”
And there’s another benefit to companies, Kihlström added: By using this platform, employees can trust that the people they are working for feel more secure, and, as a result, their job performance will be more reliable, and they will be less likely to quit.
“We’re building loyalty by taking care of the freelancers,” Kihlström added.