The 9-5 Will Become Obsolete. Here’s How To Prepare.


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Traditional office work and 9-5 jobs are becoming less popular by the year. Businesses have started adapting, but the workforce drives the movement.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated distaste for commutes and offices — citing wasted time, fuel expenses and office discomforts. Who wants to wear a sweater all day because the A/C won’t stop blowing? Tiny inconveniences like this add up, affecting well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity.

Those burdens force workers to conclude that their home is a much better work environment than an office.

However, not all employers are happy with this shift. For now, many companies are avoiding a return-to-office (RTO) mandate, noting how RTO mandates increase employee attrition and hinder recruitment.

The big question they’re asking is: why pay expensive salaries and benefits if employees aren’t in the office?

Some companies are opting not to.

Layoff trend continues

As the demand for remote work increases, another trend has emerged: layoffs.

But this job market is an interesting one because many of these layoffs aren’t caused by a lack of work for employees but by replacing those workers with tools or contractors.

For example, a growth marketing agency I consult laid off 3 of their 20 employees in the past nine weeks. These roles included a copywriter, content writer and PPC specialist.

All 3 of those employees were replaced by AI tools.

The CEO and COO decided to replace these employees due to the high cost — $300,000 per year versus $10,000 for tools. But tools aren’t the only thing replacing workers. The overall structure of worker pay is changing, too.

Companies are more often opting for independent contractors. They also pass work to small agencies instead of hiring full-time employees, trimming costs while maintaining a human touch.

This is yet another method of reducing overall overhead costs. Many skilled workers have embraced this trend and are preparing for the future of work. Survey data supports this claim.

Related: The Rise of Self-Employed in the Global Workforce and What Business Owners Need to Know

McKinsey survey on independent workers

According to a survey completed by consulting firm McKinsey, independent work is booming.

58 million Americans now identify as independent workers. Historically, independent workers were most commonly seen as “side hustle” jobs, such as tutoring, taxi driving or food delivery. Now, it’s becoming more common for knowledge-based positions to become independent workers, too.

I’ve seen agencies and firms hire data analysts, graphic designers, software developers and other roles on contract or retainer. This model replaces a W-2 employee that requires additional benefits.

Because if a company can’t force employees into an office, they may as well trim some of those costs. In America, health insurance, 401k matching and other standard benefits are expensive. Typical markup costs range from 35% to 60% above the base salary.

A $100,000 per year salary becomes a $150,000+ expense for any firm providing decent benefits. This significant cost makes full-time employees less attractive compared to modern alternatives. Workers attuned to the market or struggling to find work are creating a different type of career path. Many are turning to small-scale entrepreneurship.

If companies won’t hire you full-time, that doesn’t mean your skillset isn’t valuable. It means you need to position yourself a bit differently to ensure your income.

Here’s how businesses and workers are positioning themselves and adapting to this future of work.

Related: How the Gig Economy Will Impact the Future of Work

How to prep for the independent worker economy

Businesses and workers alike need to prepare — differently — for the future of work. This future of work is leaner companies that rely on outsourcing more than ever before.

How businesses should prepare

As a business owner, you must adapt to modern recruitment challenges. The trend of workers disliking commutes, offices and low salaries will not fade. This requires diversifying how you hire staff and complete client work.

Here are four tips to optimize hiring independent workers.

  1. Create a template for contracts and NDAs. This will streamline onboarding and protect your company in terms of legalities.
  2. Create accounts and get familiar with popular freelance marketplaces, including UpWork and Fiverr. This will help you find talent faster.
  3. Build a list of go-to experts for the type of work you need. A great way to do this is to network on professional platforms like LinkedIn. Currently, I exclusively hire people I’ve met locally or through social media.
  4. Revisit and improve your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). More contracted work will mean more required training. With proper SOPs in place, this becomes faster and more async.

How workers should prepare

As a knowledge worker, you must adapt to this tough job market. The number one way to do this is to make yourself easily available for projects without requiring a full-time offer.

Companies will continue opting for cheaper methods over full-time employees, especially as AI tools improve — and they’re improvement is rapid.

Here are four tips to help you adapt to an independent work economy.

  • Optimize your online presence, including your personal website and social media profiles. This makes finding your specific skill set easier to find when a company needs it.
  • Create a portfolio of your work. Traditional resumes won’t do the trick anymore. Make it easy for someone who comes across your name to view your best projects.
  • Create content around your skillset. Post to social media once or twice a week about what you’re learning or a project you’ve completed. This will help you attract opportunities.
  • Determine your pricing ahead of time. This will assist you with negotiating pay rates for contracts. If you’re unsure where to start, a simple formula you can use is your desired hourly rate + 50%. Multiply that number by the hours you are expected to work on the project for your total price.

If there’s an overall theme that’s true, the independent worker economy is trending upward. Companies must be agile and cost-effective; workers must position themselves as experts to ensure income.

Ultimately, everyone can benefit from this new approach to work — companies by cutting costs and workers by positioning themselves as indispensable.

But only if both sides prepare.

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