The future of work is freelance, according to research by marketing startup The Plato Group.
The global recession has already led to a rise in entrepreneurs and self-employment, but this trend is set to continue, with half of all Americans working for themselves by 2020.
Combined with the increasing use of robots in service and care roles, this trend could eventually spell the end to traditional, contracted 9-5 work as we know it. This, in turn, could have a significant impact on everything from housing to food.
As part of this, many of us may end up working fewer or more flexible hours in more relaxed, non-corporate environments.
Technological and social changes have already resulted in changes to working hours, an increase in home-based work and a rise in the number of industries where freelance work is possible.
The Plato Group believes that there will be “a change in the way work is done, a change in the way companies and workers interact and a change in the government’s response to entrepreneurs.”
In particular, the organisation believes that people who are aware of these changes and adapt appropriately will be in the best position to capitalise on the shift to freelance work, and suggested that states offering tax incentives, such as Florida, would be likely to attract more freelancers and small businesses.
A significant growth in freelance work seems likely largely because of the number of tasks that can now be achieved remotely. In many industries, few jobs involve work that is tied to a specific location and employees could – at least in theory – do their work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
However, if freelancers became the majority of workers this could result in a complete change in where people live and work. Areas with appealing climates, scenery and activities could become increasingly popular, and we could see mass migration away from overcrowded urban areas by workers who no longer need to live in the city, which may even have an impact on property prices.
Some towns might even capitalise on this in a bit to boost tax revenue; we could see high-speed broadband and live/work spaces being installed in areas looking to attract more people.
Fashion may also be affected. Many offices have already moved away from the traditional suit and tie, but with mass freelancing casual wear – and perhaps even loungewear – could see a surge in popularity.
The on-the-go food industry may see a drop as the demand for lunch break sandwiches dwindles, but the home delivery industry – which has exploded over the past few years – could see demand skyrocketing.
However, this shift could also have a very negative impact. Freelance work is often very insecure and can mean living hand-to-mouth with no regular salary to make mortgage payments, pay insurance premiums and similar.
While some would undoubtedly thrive in a freelance system, many may find themselves struggling for work.
Images courtesy of Toms Bauģis.