The rising freelance ethos
|November 4, 2011||Posted by Sophy Bot under Work/Life Separation|
Clearance aisles don’t lie: standalone GPS units are on their way out. The same goes for MP3 players, consumer-level cameras, TVs and now even cars. Single function is passé. Multifunction is in.
As hardware technology matures, more and more functionality is being built into standard devices. Whether it’s in your pocket, your lap or your car, today’s devices are expected to perform a wide array of tasks previously reserved for single-function units. Long gone are the days when your phone was not also your calculator, your music player and your video camera. In today’s fast-paced world, we don’t want to switch devices every time we need to perform a new task. We just want to open a new program.
Offline, this trend has manifested itself as a growing interconnection between the different spheres of our lives. Facebook may be play and Outlook may be work, but when both can be accessed wherever you go using a single device, the two become harder to differentiate. And as a whole generation raised with a multifunction ethos is now attesting, the line between work and play is about to get a whole lot blurrier.
A recent report from Cisco shows just how dramatically workplace priorities are shifting to include the personal realm. 4 out of 5 college students want to choose which device they use for their jobs. 71% of students (and 68% of young employees) believe corporate devices should also be used for social media and personal use. In other words, the overwhelming majority of the next generation entering the workforce wants a custom device that can be used for both work and play. Nor do they think that work should be limited to the office – 3 out of 5 students think they have a right to work remotely with a flexible schedule. 7 out of 10 believe being in an office regularly is unnecessary. The message is clear: work is no longer a place you go. Work is a thing you do.
Just as our devices have grown to allow us to seamlessly switch between work and personal functions, so too have we shifted our concept of what each realm means. Work can be brought home, home can be brought to work, and the traditional notion of the workplace has been flipped on its head. While many have called it the rise of the freelance economy, the jobs themselves are not going to transform into project-based work overnight. What will transform is the traditional work ethic. Freelancers are accustomed to managing their own time and billing only those hours they spend working. As more employees start working remotely and spending more time in the office on personal tasks, the freelance ethos will continue its foray into the traditional workplace. Want to spend an hour playing around on Reddit? Go ahead, but don’t bill for it. Want to leave the office early and finish the project over the weekend? Go for it, just don’t miss the deadline.
With the blurring of the line between life and work has come an accompanying rise in the freelance mentality. If we expect to be free to work from home, we must prove that we are responsible enough to do so. Today’s students are already dealing with these issues and have developed the ability to manage their time efficiently. As they enter the workplace, they bring those same time management skills with them. Our devices have forced us to learn how to manage our own time on our own terms and the modern workplace is feeling the resulting shift in mindset. No, we’re not all going to suddenly become freelancers. But we sure are starting to think like them.