Martha, an independent consultant left a global consulting firm to set out on her own. Now she’s part of a widely defined as gig economy, an emerging section of the labor force. Often by choice, there are about 150 million workers in North America and Western Europe have left the fairly secure corporate life and join the gig economy.
Some of this development represents the rise of ride-hailing and task-oriented service networks, but a recent McKinsey study found that the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy are knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations.
We recently conducted an in-depth analysis of 65 gig employees to learn what it takes to be productive in self-employed jobs. We find that the most productive self-employed handle this conflict with common strategies. They cultivate four types of connections — to place, routines, purpose, and people — that help them endure the emotional ups and downs of their work and gain energy and inspiration from their freedom. Those tactics are becoming increasingly important as the gig economy expands worldwide.
The Four Connections
The people we interviewed are disconnected from a corporate office and find places to work that protect them from outside distractions and pressures and help them avoid feeling rootless. While many believed their work was portable, they all still seemed to have to withdraw somewhere.
Karla, an independent consultant, agreed that she’s going to resist distraction and pursue inspiration in her home office, practically surrounded by her current and future projects, organized in noticeable and available stacks. “When I walk through that door, I step into a space that embraces all the different aspects of myself,” she told us. “I feel at home in there.” Karla explained, she would probably be too sensitive to external demands and thus less focused and free.
Routines are often associated with security or tedious administration in organizations. Nevertheless, a increasing body of research has shown that professional athletes, scientific geniuses, famous musicians and even everyday staff are using rituals to improve concentration and efficiency. The professionals we have been talking to continue to rely on them in the same manner.
Some routine habits enhance the productivity of people: maintaining a schedule; following a to-do list; starting the day with the most difficult job or calling a client. Other routines usually including sleep, meditation, diet, or exercise, integrate personal care into the working lives of individuals. All kinds also have a ritual element which in uncertain circumstances strengthens the sense of order and control of the people.
Purpose bridges the world between their personal interests and motivations, and a need. An executive coach we interviewed told us it holds her calm, motivated and inspiring spirit. “A major difference between successful independents and others that aren’t or go back to [corporate jobs] is getting to the position to know what you’re going to do.
We found that purpose, like the other connections, both binds and frees people by orienting and elevating their work.
Human beings are social creature, the freelancers are keenly aware of and aspire to escape the hazards of social isolation. While many are ambivalent about organized peer groups, which they frequently see as insipid substitutes for collegiality, they all report having people they turn to for reassurance and support like mentor, family members, friends or contacts in similar fields.
In popular management tales, career success usually comes with security and equanimity. For independent workers, however, both are ultimately elusive. And yet most of those we studied told us they feel successful.
Our conclusion is that people in the gig economy must pursue a different kind of success — one that comes from finding a balance between predictability and possibility, between viability (the promise of continued work) and vitality (feeling present, authentic, and alive in one’s work).
Sources : HBR.org