Group of workers collaborating at a table.
In distributed workplaces it's often not possible for employees to meet face-to-face, but today's collaboration tools foster a culture of teamwork. PHOTO: Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash

Half of your colleagues have never stepped foot in your office, huh? You’re not alone. According to data from Wonolo, more than 50% of the US workforce will be a part of the gig economy by 2027 if it keeps growing at its current rate. That means more remote workers, consultants, freelancers and other work arrangements vastly different from the traditional office employee.

For many organizations, this trend raises questions on how to prepare for a blended workforce, with a section of employees working in-house, while a mix of employees, agencies and freelancers work from, well, anywhere else in the world. Should companies encourage remote work, or should they push for more traditional office environments?

How to Prepare for the Gig Economy

“To prepare for the gig economy managers need to overhaul how they approach the hiring process,” suggested Shahar Erez, CEO of Stoke. Hiring freelancers takes an entirely different mindset than a traditional employee because they’re not typically a long-term worker. “The goal isn’t to find an employee for the next few years,” continued Erez, “it’s to supplement your team quickly with an experienced hand and keep going without missing a beat.”

Along with the hiring process, companies will need to adjust the way they onboard new workers and facilitate collaboration. “This means how you communicate, process and operate in your company may have to shift” Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox said, “so that it welcomes people who come on project-based but also have a more flexible work schedule.”

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Should You Encourage Remote or Traditional Work?

“The truth is that companies should not encourage their workers to work from either the home or the office,” Erez said, “but rather focus on collaboration and delivery.” Instead, he believes employees should choose whichever arrangement makes them most productive, and companies should focus on creating a collaborative blended work environment. Erez believes managing in the gig economy “isn’t worrying about where the people are, but rather setting the tools to allow this communication to flow.” And Kang agreed, “You should certainly have both for different reasons.” She believes remote work is a great benefit for many workers, but it’s still better to collaborate as a team in-person. 

Even if you encourage both types of work arrangement, improving communication will be essential. “More investment and thought will have to be made in how you communicate,” Kang explained, “and what tools you use to make the work collaboration easier instead of harder.”

Tips for Managing a Blended Workforce

If current trends continue it seems likely, a blended workforce may be the future for any organizations.

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Don’t Focus on Work Arrangements 

When managing a blended workforce, it may be best to ignore where or how team members get their work done. “When it comes to projects,” Erez suggested, “managers should focus on who is best suited to tasks rather than thinking about the status of their employees when assigning a lead.” This helps tasks and projects get completed more efficiently.

Invest in Employee Growth

Erez also believes managers should focus on the growth of their full-time employees because these workers will drive the culture of the company long after freelancers have moved on. “These workers have made a commitment to the company,” Erez explained, “and management should acknowledge that by investing resources into their future development.”

Focus On All-Inclusive Communication 

When it comes to a blended workforce, Kang said, “How you communicate with them digitally and in-person matters a lot.” There are a lot of things to consider from making sure contractors get added to company-wide announcements to giving remote workers opportunities to connect with people virtually. “Simple communication habits that isolate different people on contracts can make them feel even more temporary,” Kang explained, “but a small change can make them feel more welcoming no matter how long someone stays.”

Providing Social Benefits

“While freelancers and part-time contractors may not get the same financial or medical benefits you provide,” Kang said, “you could still provide them team-like experience.” It may be a good idea to offer workers that aren’t full-time the same social benefits like free lunch, snacks, invites to company retreats, or a company email. Kang says the way these workers feel in the office will impact full-time employees — for better or worse — as well.

Setting a Good Example

Kang believes leadership needs to walk the talk when it comes to being inclusive to employees that aren’t full-time or in the office.“How leadership treats others will impact how other employees will want to treat contractors and part-time employees,” she explained. Managers and other leaders, therefore, need to accept input from all workers and welcome everyone to meetings in the office to set a good example for the entire company.

“Change how you hire, train and motivate your people,” concluded Kang. The blended workforce is coming, and companies need to adjust their management approach to get prepared.