Can freelancers help my business during and post COVID
Freelancing has been a growing phenomenon in the digital age. In 2016, freelancers brought in over $1 trillion AUD in annual earnings. In early 2019, Forbes and Business.com both published articles describing the expected further growth in the freelance industry. In this post LinkedIn cited that it was the trend to watch in 2017 linkedin.com/profinder/blog/top-trends-to-watch-in-2017.
Then comes 2020. Lost revenues, shrinking profits, forced redundancies of talented workers, remote working and the regular “I can hear you, can you hear me?” are unexpectedly forced upon all of us. Businesses that have managed to thrive and survive the pandemic were those who could quickly narrow their focus on areas that matter most. The decentralisation of the workplace has essentially made all staff freelancers. The trust and freedom have a very similar feel to the advantages of freelancing for both companies and freelancers alike. As mentioned earlier the US freelance market is now into its fourth year of big growth, as we start the 20's decade is it now time for Australia & New Zealand's workforce market to move towards freelancing? In this post I look at a couple of reasons as to why a freelancer might be best to use during and post COVID.
Less risk to the bottom-line
Hiring and firing an employee is a time consuming and costly task. One of the most unfortunate outcomes of the global pandemic was one of the largest layoffs of staff around the world. The payouts of benefits are costly financially, but it is often understated just how difficult this was emotionally for all involved. The nimbleness of having a contractor or freelancer allows for this unfortunate circumstance to be smoother. But enough about the negative here and now of COVID, what about post-COVID right?
Increased redundancies in 2020 has created gaps in the workforce. Companies that have picked themselves up off the canvass now have increased workloads and need people to support productivity.
But the problem with rehiring old employees or bringing in new employees is the financial risk involved. Whilst we all should remain positive that we never have to return to the strictest lockdown measures, none of us can guarantee this. The post-COVID recovery is going to take time. Whilst revenues and profits are going to begin to turn, it will take some time for them to return to normal. All whilst the analysis and effort to make informed business decisions is needed now more than ever. A freelancer can come in and provide specialised, high quality, project work (more on this later) that can help businesses get themselves back on track, without having a long-term financial commitment.
The three T’s (Technology, Teamwork & Trust)
One silver lining to come out of the pandemic has been the ability for workforces to survive without having everyone commute into a central place of work. This has been achieved through what I like to call the three T’s: Technology, Teamwork & Trust.
Technology: the big change here was not so much new technology being invented to make working from home possible, but a mentality shift to move towards it. Microsoft Teams (released 2017), Zoom (released 2013), Skype for Business (released 2015), WhatsApp (released 2009) are not new tools but many companies have been reluctant to embrace them fully. In fact, the first use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) was dated way back in 1996! COVID changed all of that in an instant. Old school businesses practices were forced to let go of and many businesses become quickly surprised with just how well their teams could access their work and interact with one another from outside of the office.
Teamwork: one of the biggest concerns of remote work practices is the loss of teamwork and camaraderie. What has been most telling during the COVID work landscape has been that some companies/teams feel that is the case, whilst many others have felt no impact or in fact felt the change brought them closer together. What this tells us is that team culture is what determines if your team sticks together and breaks apart. Teams with good culture maintained regular contact not just with a daily team meeting, but with virtual coffee one-on-ones, virtual quizzes, or weekly drinks. Teams that did this well felt that they got to know more about one another, and that they were valued as a person not just a resource. Many say that they felt a closer bond or connection to the team post-COVID than they had going into it.
Trust: this may be the most important of the three T’s. Without trust all the technology in the world is redundant. If you do not trust your employee/freelancer/contractor to fulfill their duties without watching over them you are not just putting extra strain on your own time but also disengaging your team member at the same time. Without trust it is impossible for a team to get the most out of their collective efforts. One of the other silver linings during the lockdown period was the brilliant Netflix documentary, The Last Dance which investigated what made Michael Jordan & the Chicago Bulls dynasty possible. What was most telling was the way in which coach Phil Jackson needed Michael to have the ball less and trust his teammates. Pre-Jackson coming in Jordan had won the individual accolades, but team success had not been achieved. Ultimately this new trust in lesser known teammate John Paxson lead the Bulls and Jordan to the deciding win in what would be the first of six championships.
If your business is in the recovery process post-COVID maybe now is the time to rethink your workforce strategy and consider temporary freelanced specialists to help you reach your full potential. Feel free to get in contact with me to discuss how this may look.