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The future is here and it’s the flexible workforce

(BUSINESS NEWS) Technology has changed everything, including how the workforce spends their day, where they report from, and how “on demand” gig workers are today.

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flexible workforce

Everyone is connected, all of the time. We’ve got our phones inches away, our televisions are smart, and we can even get emails on our fridges. Because of this hyper-connectivity, it’s changed how we’re working, how we collaborate, and how transparent teams have become.

Back in the day, most folks worked from 9-5. Today, we’re not exactly all rushing into the office by 9am sharp thanks to advances with technology as simple as sending a text message or email to the whole staff. We’ve become more flexible.

Businesses have shifted their methods of how work gets done, what can be achieved, despite teammates not sitting next to one another in an office. The workforce is getting younger, more technology-driven and because of this, flexibility has become a throughline for many successful teams. Whereas in the past, time off or working from home were “nice to have,” they’re now one of the first things a business has to discuss in the interviewing process.

But, what’s happening because of the inverse of services like Uber, Lyft, Favor, and Instacart, the gig economy is coming on strong. Everything is changing. What was once considered a role that’s full-time can now be done on an “as-needed” basis and the results are getting wild.

The Aspen Institute’s Workforce of the Future recently dropped a study citing that 60% of companies are using on-demand workers. The data also shows that 70% of companies are looking to hire more of a gig-based workforce in the future.

What exactly is a flexible workforce?

The definition of “flexible” is evolving because people want to work for themselves rather than punch a clock for someone else. The work can be a variety of project-based, seasonal, contracted, event-based, or even remotely.

Think of people who are:

  • Freelancers
  • Contingent workers
  • Part-time employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig workers

A whopping 36% of the U.S. workforce is involved in the gig economy – that’s 57 MILLION people, who are earning over a trillion dollars from gigs like delivering groceries, delivering food, working a specific event, or just testing out some software for an afternoon.

Why would anyone want to change up their business model and hire some flexible workers? Well, there are plenty of reasons.

Talent access

Depending on the community and work type, some companies choose to hire out contractors or freelancers because telecommuting is easier. By hiring for a one-time design or to get some copy written by using services like Upwork or Fivver, this allows creatives and corresponding managers to break traditional geographic constraints. This also means that niche professionals have broader access to companies who may need someone for a particular project that would usually disrupt the work of regular staff. The same thing could go for events and staffing a game when it comes to security or maybe a certain kind of bartender.

It’s cheaper

Let’s say you’re running a store in the French Quarter and every Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest the influx of tourists cripples your shop. There are people everywhere, and you need security, an extra register person and at least one other person on the floor to help customers. But, every other time of the year business is slower and manageable. A short-term worker would be able to come in just for these times with a clear understanding of the expectations as well the length of the work. This is cheaper than hiring someone part-time and keeping them on the fringes only for a few times a year.

Different people want different things

The makeup of the gig economy isn’t always who you think it is. While yes, there’s a large contingency that’s centered on Millennials and their constant search for work that’s meaningful, there are plenty of boomers who are working for something to do as retirement isn’t as fun as they expected. But, that also lends itself to those decades of experience, too. Generation X is looking for work-life balance and doesn’t want to be at work all of the time, so all three of these age segments offer a variety of worker types, all which can be used to fill different roles.

They’re available right now

Remember that instantaneous technology? A sector of the staffing and recruiting world has developed apps and platforms to meet the need for speed. Companies looking to get a job done right now have access to qualified workers who can do just that. Scalability and effectiveness have become the name of the game. Some companies (kinda like us) can even handle the paperwork and all of the details so a boss can put together their ask via their iPhone and get qualified leads back by lunch.

It’s beneficial for the long-term employees

Hiring someone for the short-term works to one huge benefit: it helps with employee burnout. By bringing in some folks to take care of a specific project or do something your regular employees just don’t have the time for, it improves morale. Plus, if someone does an incredible job at their temporary work, it might open the door to a conversation about longer-term employment – but on the company’s terms.

On-demand work is the fastest growing segment of the new workforce. People are picking up gigs everywhere. This is the model for the future, and it’s only going to continue to diversify. If you’ve got a project in mind that you’ve been casting off for months, getting the job done might be easier than you think. The technology is there.

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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Business News

RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.

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An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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