Roger Beadle, Co-Founder and CEO, Limitless on why The Gig workforce is not just for Christmas
The holiday period is often a time of intense activity for gig (part-time, flexible) workers, particularly as heightened customer demand and order volumes skyrocket. Often employed on the premise of being a seasonal worker, the retail and customer experience rush is typically followed by a slump in available work in the new year which can leave these individuals at an unfortunate, yet predictable, loose end. This pattern, coupled with the extra pressure caused by COVID-19 this year, means that the picture is far from clear for the increasingly large numbers of seasonal workers.
That said, at times of peak trading, particularly while workers are not allowed in the office, the gig customer service (GigCX) model is ideal for the rapid scaling of customer service teams and contact centre staff. Likewise, the world is beginning to push more employees towards a remote working model that is, more frequently, based on the ‘gig’. However, one issue that all brands must overcome is a re-framing of what constitutes a gig worker, and more significantly, what a ‘good gig’ is. At present, gig work typically sits across an increasingly blurred line of temporary worker vs. essential yet flexible employee.
The topic is a complex one, but the need for fully flexible ‘staff’ will never go away. However, what is important in the next evolution of gig work is ensuring that all gig work offerings are provided on a fair and equal basis, and encouragement towards seeing gig work as a second job.
A moral duty
For the gig model to truly work for both brand and employee, businesses must embrace practises which positively impact the lives of the gig community, the end-customer, and the brands they support. This extends to brands ensuring that their gig workers are rewarded fairly for their time and giving them the freedom to take on tasks or not.
To achieve this picture, we must ensure that all companies globally – regardless of sector – fully understand what constitutes a fair and moral gig. This extends to re-framing the definition of a gig worker, and what it means to be employed on a flexible basis. Arguably, unlike many gig models such as delivery or taxi services where those who gig may eventually begin to gig on a full-time basis, brands should not necessarily encourage their people to gig full-time. The gig sector should be re-defined as a healthy and moral working model that encourages flexibility, offering individuals the opportunity to work an extra few hours each week to supplement other income. If full-time ‘gigging’ is the aim for some individuals, there should be a universal industry expectation that gig work should span across several platforms so as not to place reliance on any one source.
Our re-defined idea of the gig must ensure that gig workers are rewarded fairly for their time and offered work on their terms. Likewise, it means that a gig working environment should champion diversity and inclusivity, paying gig workers in a fair local market rate in their local currency. Brands have a new responsibility to ensure their gig workforce becomes a fully integrated and respected part of the workforce, just as their full-time teams.
The 21st century gig
In our new definition of a ‘good gig’, work should be offered with a healthy balance in mind. People who offer their services on a gig basis should be given equal opportunity without losing the flexibility which underpins the benefits of gigging for both employer and employee. This is in contrast to the typical fear and pressure that has been presented to gig workers in other circumstances, where they have had to ‘pay to work’ and have similarly been expected to shoulder start-up fees.
To ensure that all gig work is fair, brands should outline a clear strategy and charter for best practice employment of gig workers. This should include many aspects in relation to fair treatment and pay, but it should also outline that anyone with talent can access customer service gig tasks easily, and at the same time, exit their gig duties without fear of penalties or the loss of significant upfront costs. Likewise, brands must ensure that their gig workers are not treated differently according to the number of tasks that they take on – a phenomena experienced by many gig workers in other circumstances who have, at times, been penalised for not taking on enough gig tasks.
In short, the modern gig should constitute a healthy balance, rather than force an overwhelming existential pressure on workers.
Above all, as we approach the seasonal peak, brands must remember to engage with gig workers with one key attitude in mind. That is, just because gig workers offer a solution that is comparable in price to virtual agents and automation, it does not mean that they shouldn’t be recognized as being equal to full time equivalent humans that are in permanent role. Likewise, gig work must always be viewed by both brands and workers as a flexible option, both as additional source of income for workers and an efficient way for brands to scale their staff base without compromising on quality. A win-win.
So, what does it mean to offer a ‘good gig’? It means a fair and transparent working environment, where there are no penalties for inactivity and no financial commitments to enter into or exit gigging. For a 21st century gig experience during this year’s seasonal peak and beyond, brands must ensure that they stick to basic principles when it comes to engaging with a non-permanent workforce which will guarantee a professional, rewarding experience on both sides.