Business Agility Meets Flexibility: The Growth in Alternative Work Models

The age of agile business has resulted in the need for a more flexible workforce. Increases in the number of part-time, temporary and remote workers are evidence of companies’ increased cost pressures coming out of the 2008 recession as well as individuals’ interests in more flexible work models. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Census show just how significant the trend is toward flexibility for both employers and workers.

Part-Time Comprises a Bigger Part of the Workforce 

Data from the BLS shows that in the past five years the balance of persons employed full-time and part-time has shifted by about two percentage points, as seen on the chart below.

Before the recession full time employees made up 83 percent of the workforce. Today they make up about 81 percent. Part-time employment shifted from about 17 percent to 19 percent of the total workforce in the same period. If you consider that two percentage points equals millions of individual workers, that seemingly small shift in workforce composition denotes a significant trend.

Employer cautiousness during the economic recovery combined with the changes in healthcare law may have permanently changed the makeup of the workforce. “Part-time” has long been of the most popular keywords on Simply Hired, showing that workers are actively seeking out part-time work rather than just accepting it because it’s all they can find.

Temporary Workers Have More Options 

At the same time the workforce is shifting to part-time, the number of temporary employees is also increasing. It reached an all-time high in June 2014 when BLS reported nearly 2.9 million temporary workers. For many people temporary work is not a choice; it’s a way of life. The American Staffing Association reports that over the last three years the temp industry added more jobs in the United States than any other.

The temporary workforce has historically consisted of occupations such as administration, retail, hospitality and farming. Increasingly, jobs in professions such as nursing, law and pharmaceutical are shifting toward temporary or contract-based employment models.

It’s been posited that the shift to a temporary workforce could be reflective of a generational trend of a less committed relationship between employees and their employers. It seems individuals are expecting more flexibility in their lifestyles while companies are seeking to be more nimble by staffing up or down as needed.

The new “gig economy” is redefining work for millions of individuals. Evidence that short-term, informal work models are becoming more accepted include last year’s merger of freelancer platforms Elance and oDesk and the growth of companies such as Gigwalk and TaskRabbit.

Companies and individuals now have easier access to short-term, project-based help from workers with specific tools and skill sets. Whether a temporary job takes half a day or a year, technology has enabled workers and employers to connect with greater efficiency. “Temporary” is a popular filter used by job seekers on Simply Hired.

The Work-from-Home Revolution 

Another way workers are seeking more flexibility in their lives is by working remotely. According to the U.S. Census there were 13.4 million people who worked from home at least one day a week in 2010, an addition of 4.2 million since 2000.

Global Workplace Analytics reports numerous benefits for companies that encourage telecommuting: higher employee satisfaction, reduced attrition rates, fewer absences, an expanded talent pool and cost-savings relating to real estate. A study conducted at a Chinese company found that home-based workers saved the company $1,900 per year, completed 13.5 percent more calls and reported higher job satisfaction levels.

Hiring part-time, temporary and remote workers presents a unique set of considerations for recruiters. Over the next several weeks we’ll take a closer look at how to hire in these fast-growing work models.

Over the next several months we’ll be sharing best learnings and best practices on how to adapt and thrive in this new era of changing careers.

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