This absolutely hit the mark for me – resonates with so much I’ve seen, heard and read and I agree with the findings. But, I think there is something else going on here which Coivd-19 has accelerated hugely. About 7 years ago I did a presentation to a group of senior HR executives at one of their annual events and mentioned that “employees are consumers – just wearing a different hat’. What I went onto say was that in the mobile era, consumers had (in reality in some cases and in perception in others) taken much more control of what and how they buy – online, via apps like Instagram, through influencers, by click & collect – the changes are endless and have only continued since that talk. But the underlying shift is essentially a move of the power towards the individual consumer and away from providers and sellers.
So much has been written about the massive numbers of people thinking about or indeed quitting their jobs. But there is less consensus and less debate on the drivers for it – frequently it’s narrowly focused on the benefits / drawbacks of working from home vs the office. There is talk of purpose, culture or values (or perhaps the lack of them) within corporates, a lack of flexibility in working from home, or uncertainty over what hybrid working will mean. But maybe, just maybe it’s all of those and something a little bit deeper and simpler – maybe we just want control of our lives back, in the same way we feel more in control of buying things. For some people (and many more than previously) they no longer want to accept that their earning capability is dictated by their employer.
That’s always been the dream for many – and entrepreneurs talk about it a lot although in many cases, it means long, long hours, high risk and a high potential failure rate. But Covid-19 highlighted the profile of that ‘freedom’ in a way that simply had never happened before, Suddenly the structure of the daily commute fell away, the school run became a home schooling planning session (a mixed blessing!) and the joys of gardening became apparent.
All of which sounds idyllic – and it wasn’t, and isn’t, for many. BUT, the glimpse of something else that is possible, a recognition that 10 hour plus working days, long commutes, on call 24/7 is not necessarily the rest of our lives, has created a restlessness, a dissatisfaction, a desire to try something different. The rise of alternatives to fulltime paid employment isn’t a bed of roses, and if left to evolve, may indeed lead to huge progress, but also huge inequality. There are lots of examples in the gig economy where that shift of power to the individual remains illusory. And it’s not for everyone – but, as this data from GoRemotely shows, the rise of the self-employed, either as a full-time or part-time occupation is global and increasing.