The Gig Economy ISN'T Going to Change the Future of Work

'The Gig Economy is going to change the future of work.'

If you've been reading articles online (and offline), you will likely come across statements related to this.

You may agree, disagree, or be completely indifferent to it. Yet, it is worth thinking about.

To the above statement, I’d say ‘yes, in a way, but, mainly, no.’

The Gig Economy has been around since work became a means to support oneself and one’s family. There have always been informal work arrangements or contracts exchanged between those with desired products / services and those who desire them.

Think of the ancient scribes and, later, notaries, who were paid to put contracts and legal documents in writing.

Think of the independent travelling salesmen, who had to go from door to door or market to market to sell their wares, which may have come from different suppliers.

Think of the young, enterprising children who act as tour guides and offer to take tourists around for a small fee, to show them the sights, the sounds, and the smells of their local cultures.

Perhaps at some point, a group of scribes came together to form a ‘company’ of scribes, to take on larger, more elaborate projects and share the earnings.

Maybe it was an ambitious travelling salesman who took on a deal that needed practitioners of other trades and decided to permanently keep them together, the better to negotiate future deals of similar nature.

It may also have been a group of young unofficial tour guides deciding to team up to divide up the work, some attracting the tourists, others making deals with local businesses to bring tourists to them for a commission, and still others doing the actual tour guiding. The extra benefit to them? Each one gets a day off work per week.

Now, even with the formation of these ‘companies’, there will still be independent workers in each of these trades. They are still going from gig to gig, with no intention to be part of any one group. They may occasionally work with some of these groups for a season, or all of them, but never ‘settle’ down with any of them.

What was true then is still true today, and it will hold true in the future.

There will always be independent workers – Giggers – and some of them will come together to form ‘companies’ or join existing ones, and some in ‘companies’ will want to strike out on their own.

With technology, information flows more rapidly and easily. This makes it much easier and cheaper for Giggers to do what they do, and for them to sustain their lifestyles. As such, it’s easy to see how the number of Giggers will likely increase in the coming years.

That said, there has always been an ebb and flow of labour supply. When the number of independent workers goes past a certain threshold, competition may force them to band together and, once again, form ‘companies’. This trend will then take root again, until it hits its own threshold, when the opposite effect occurs.

Since this has always been the case, it’s hard to imagine that the future of work will really change from what it has always been, with or without technology.

That said, to those who aren’t yet on board with the Gig Economy, I can only say that it’s better to start learning how you can take advantage of this move before you are forced down the wrong end of its inevitable movement into your sector.


A Motto I Live By

Bangkok is always an enjoyable city. The people, the culture and, of course, the food are all wonderful.

While there, I became acutely aware of being part of an ever-connected world. There were a number of work-related communication attempts that I had to turn away. There was also a lot of information being exchanged that I would have liked to digest but simply didn't. I was, after all, on holiday and I wanted to be fully present with my travelling companions.

Now that I have returned to Singapore, I have done the necessary replies and correspondence.

What struck me was how little it mattered that it took a few days longer to get these seemingly-urgent-at-the-time things done. Nobody lost their minds or their jobs, neither did anything become irreparably damaged.

This made me realise how odd it is that many today refuse to leave their work behind for a while or perhaps it is a reluctance to delegate the decisions to someone else or to be seen as 'relaxing' while others are working.

Maybe it is a combination of all the above factors or some others that I have not yet considered.

Of course, If I had known beforehand that an important business deal that had been years in the making would occur during my holiday period, that would have been a different story. I would have set time aside during my trip specifically to get what I had to do done and I would have informed my travelling companions that I would be unavailable for that hour or so. I feel that it is the only right (and polite) thing to do.

Granted, we all live in a world that is constantly connected and last-minute things occur all the time. Despite this, I do think that it is just as important to take time off work to unwind and enjoy being in the place and moment, if only for a few days.

One of my mottos when I first started working was this:

Work never ends. Lives do.

I work by this motto. I believe that I always will.