The Future Of The Virtual Workforce – Forbes - Freelance Rack

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Monday, May 11, 2020

The Future Of The Virtual Workforce – Forbes


The COVID-19 pandemic has ruffled the fabric of our society and economy over the past few weeks. As a result of circumstances that have driven large numbers of the modern workforce to hunker down and operate from home, we’re starting to ask questions about remote and online work — and the viability of a predominantly virtual workforce in the modern era. In a world where Zoom meetings have taken the place of in-person brainstorms, while Slack and other instant messaging platforms have replaced the act of leaning over to ask your colleagues questions throughout the day, who’s to say the world isn’t ready for a shift toward remote work?

When all is said and done, the transition back to “regular life” after COVID-19, whenever that may be, will pose interesting challenges. As we slowly return to work after living in a world where working from home was the norm, and not the exception, more employers may be willing to embrace more flexible schedules. Remote work has become popularized over the past few years as technology has started to adapt and shift trends in the workforce — and prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, remote work was already shown to boost productivity. The implications are significant not only for typical full-time employees, but for gig and contract workers, too.

A virtual workforce has its pros and cons, much like anything else, but it’s worth considering how these benefits and challenges might be reevaluated as we get used to our new lifestyles. These are some factors to consider as our understanding of remote work changes:

It provides flexibility and expands opportunity. 

For industries that are highly concentrated in specific locations, the expansion of remote work can provide opportunities for individuals who can’t relocate. This expands your typical talent pool considerably and provides employers with a wider, more diverse range of candidates to select from. Likewise, this can help expand industries that are typically closed-door operations.

It boosts independent/gig work. 

Depending on the industry, there are more than likely a growing population of independent, freelance or gig workers who already work remotely. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has hit these workers hard, there is evidence that a strong boost is on the horizon for independent professionals as the economy begins to restabilize following the pandemic and companies look for ways to cut costs. Likewise, the pandemic has brought to light gig workers’ lack of benefits and could signal a stronger emphasis on protections for independent workers in the future.

Gig and freelance work requires more self-discipline. 

Just as employers and workers alike have begun to adjust and understand remote work, the concerns and difficulties that come with such a lifestyle have also become apparent. For example, remote work requires much more self-discipline than working in an office environment. Many workers have reported working more at night or in the early morning or spending more time at their computers than they did in the office. It’s important to set clear boundaries between working and nonworking hours to maintain a balanced lifestyle while working from home. Otherwise, employees may find themselves feeling more burned out than usual while working remotely.

Ultimately, as COVID-19 continues to impact the United States economy, workers across the country will find themselves in unique situations — either as they continue to adjust to remote lifestyles or seek out gig and independent opportunities. In both cases, this is a chance to redefine what it looks like to “work” and how that work can get done by anyone, anywhere. Though we might not be fully transitioning to remote lifestyles anytime soon, it’s valuable to reconsider how we can learn from this unprecedented era of work.

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