Nowadays, our world is more connected than ever. This connectivity at the global scale sounds the death knell for the old-fashioned approach to business.
With the advent of the internet in the early 1990s, everything slowly started to change. It might indeed be a tasteful coincidence – or synchronicity for that matter – that the World Wide Web (WWW), the first-ever internet browser, was invented at Switzerland's CERN laboratories – the venue for the most groundbreaking experiments of physics ever implemented in the history of humankind.
I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee, the scientist behind the WWW project, ever envisioned that his marvelous invention would not only bring together people all over the earth but continue to affect every aspect of our lives imaginable – including how and where we work.
The growth of the internet is attributable to the simple reality - it made everything, literally everything, more convenient. It also made global affairs more interconnected, producing a marketplace for anything you threw at it.
Consequently, the internet created a different economy that did not require paying exorbitant sums for rent and bills to conduct business. The only necessary components were a simple understanding of this new global phenomenon and the ability to respond to the ever-growing demand for a convenient online shopping experience. Lastly, this new economic milieu required a future-proof approach to business in an ever-changing business landscape.
It is nowadays a cliché to give the example of Jeff Bezos and Amazon's humble beginnings as a stark counterpoint to its current status as an industry giant. Nevertheless, the success of Amazon is indubitably multi-faceted, including a robust management style, a diverse business model, and diligent talent acquisition, all centered around a customer-oriented approach.
But as with everything in life, finding a balance is never easy when running a business, and this rings true with Amazon. One of the major problems the company has faced stemmed from the reports of mistreatment in its warehouses with a constant demand for flexibility from employees. In general, Amazon got accused of not cutting its workforce enough slack during its journey to becoming a titan.
The lesson here is that respecting your employees' basic needs and perspectives is a mandatory initial step to building a reputation as a terrific employer. However, this in itself is not sufficient. You should also strive to create a positive work environment, provide employees with fair pay, and give them enough space to maneuver as they perform their daily duties. In addition, it is vital to strike a balance between traditional ways of work and novel tools that will lay the foundation of the future of labor. This will ensure that your workers remain productive and at the cutting edge of technology. After all, a productive employee is a happy person doing their job, be it full-time at the office, exclusively freelance/remote work, or a hybrid.
After the pandemic hit companies worldwide unimaginably, many have struggled to stay in business or went belly up. After two years of turbulence and chaos, we can finally see a pattern emerge: Those who stayed afloat throughout these tumultuous times employed freelance work, kept their workers content, and exploited digital technologies to their full extent. Maybe this is why major companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple took concrete steps toward transitioning to a remote or hybrid model.
Remote working had already been a reality for freelance-compatible jobs such as programming and translation, but after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, its potential became crystal clear. Employees working full-time jobs at traditional companies were taken aback by the prospect of mandatory isolation at home. At the same time, their employers pondered if they could sustain their business in such an economy.
To illustrate how far we've come, compare the early 20th-century Spanish flu and COVID-19 in terms of how they affected the global economy. During the Spanish flu, the business world ground to a halt, as remote work was not an option with the current state of technology.
But when COVID-19 struck, instantaneous communication at the global level was the norm, and the entire planet was interconnected, thanks to the internet and the incredible possibilities it offers. Thus, any jobs people could do remotely were instantly carried over to online platforms. In the meantime, as usual, many professionals such as programmers and businesses like banks continued relying on digital technologies to conduct their daily operations.
So, where does this leave us, who are currently undergoing a gradual normalization process, admixed with prospects of recession? Or, more precisely, what does the future hold for traditional companies in a turbulent global economy? To anyone paying attention, the answer is clear. A basic tenet of success in the business world is an emphasis on talent, which, through rigorous training and assimilation into company culture, is molded into a loyal workforce possessing sufficient flexibility and resiliency to meet ever-evolving customer demands. What better way to achieve loyalty than providing the utmost flexibility to work with the option of staying remote while divesting a portion of the freed-up resources to your workers' well-being? A flexibility that, in combination with fair compensation and access to tools for success, will create a happy workforce that will enhance your reputation and solidify your company's place in the market. This is where freelancing shines.
Suppose a person is content with their job. In that case, they are much more likely to look out for the company they are a part of, especially when the organization's roadmap to growth aligns with their own roadmap for personal and professional development.
The shift from the traditional ways of employment to freelance work did not happen overnight, but the true potential of freelancing was revealed almost instantly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. People realized that the world is more interconnected than ever in its current state, which largely obviates the need for physical proximity. As things stand, you do not have to be a fortuneteller to foresee that freelance work will become exponentially more important as technology advances. All work that can be completed on a computer will most likely remain remote, as freelance work is the most economically feasible and environmentally friendly solution out there. The companies adapting to this new world order will achieve better worker satisfaction, which will translate into better work output.
I am not saying that the traditional way of doing business will die overnight or go wholly obsolete; on the contrary, it will likely grow into its own niche by providing a human touch in an increasingly virtual business landscape. Nevertheless, the companies that resist the winds of change without compromise will be hard hit. This is why each business must ask a simple question while approaching any given task: Can it be done remotely without sacrificing quality? If the answer is a resounding yes, it may be time for a change. If the answer is a "maybe", then the potential ramifications of each option should be weighed carefully before taking action. If the answer is no, then the decision-maker can face the future with the confidence of having done their due diligence.
A balance must be struck as we transition from the traditional modes of communication to virtual and globally integrated modes of communication. Any given business can begin by asking this particular question:
"Will we survive the freelance era?"
If you can say yes with a peaceful mind, rest assured that your business will thrive. If not, the death knell may toll for your business.