32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure” – Brian Kropp, Gartner

The beginning of the year 2019 brought with it a microscopic virus that soon spread devastation across the world, taking the form of a deadly pandemic. Covid19 continues to plague the world, killing millions, several millions lost their jobs, and those with jobs were subject to merciless pay cuts and confinement while being forced to work from home. The future continues to seem bleak and uncertain. We wonder whether societies and our lives will return to normal, and what kind of repercussions and scars the pandemic would leave us with. Remote work is possibly now normal, even if a hybrid manner of working (part office, part home) were retained. Work from home could be the bridge setting the tone for true gender equality and diversity. The fact is that reskilling and up-skilling will take precedence and as per a report, the US alone might see around 17 million workers change their occupations by the year 2030.

The disruptions from Covid19 – both short and long term, vary. In the longer term, work that requires higher physical proximity will continue to be unsettled. Jobs that require direct customer interaction have also seen a change – some jobs have moved to e-commerce and other digital methods, and this trend is likely to remain. Within the realms of leisure and travel, where workers interact with crowds of people every day, are currently forced to operate in an extremely limited manner. The pandemic forced the closure of several venues of travel and leisure and with automation taking over food service roles for example, the labor demand in these areas continues to be curtailed. Desk and computer based roles account for about one-third of employment and potentially this entire arena would move to remote work.

The maintenance and outdoor production realms (construction, farms, commercial grounds, residential spaces, and other outdoor spaces) are the largest workspaces within India and China. Almost 35% to 55% of workforces in these countries work in these areas – the pandemic did not disrupt these realms as much given that proximity is low and interactions with others are few.

Economic Uncertainty Leading to Use of Contingent Workforce

Several workers lost their jobs because of the pandemic, leading several to atypical and so called unconventional work models. Organizations cut expenses by laying-off part of their workforce and cutting salaries by up to 50% and terminating the services of their contracted staff. However, research and analysis by Gartner indicate that organizations will increase the use of contingent/gig workers. This will bring down costs and ensure workforce flexibility. Further, the report states that at least 32% of companies are replacing full-time employees with gig workers.
The pandemic has brought about financial crisis at a global scale and several companies moved to being nationalized in an attempt to avoid closure and failure. As the brutality of the pandemic ebbs, nationalization and mergers and acquisitions will continue to accelerate. In order to remain relevant and to mitigate risk, companies would need to expand diversification across geographies and invest in secondary markets. This in turn would make the management of a large workforce extremely challenging, demanding managers to develop a different set of skills, which may not be possible or feasible. Reskilling and career development would become key differentiators, and companies would need to develop resources and build platforms to support visibility for their permanent workforce.

The pandemic has put the world in a state of perpetual disruption. This requires both individuals and organizations to think and work in an altered manner, challenging the past orthodox ways of working and employment. By shifting the thought process about employment and looking at work as a flow, it is possible to unleash untapped human potential. It seems obvious that technology must be used to elevate human capabilities and create an environment of work where people feel empowered and are able to use tools and technology to contribute optimally. Gig work/contingent work will help unlock aspirations and bring about outcomes that did not seem possible. The future of work will entail achieving new heights using technology, while elevating human capabilities and unleashing the potential of the human spirit to achieve new milestones.