As workplaces begin to reopen from the COVID-19 pandemic, more skilled professionals in the US are choosing freelancing as their main source of employment, according to a new report.
Upwork, a freelancing platform that connects professionals with businesses, surveyed workers who spent most of their time working remotely the past year. Most people are considering freelancing to prolong their remote working conditions, according to the findings which were released this week.
Applying the report’s findings to Gallup data, 10 million Americans are projected to be seriously considering the move to freelance. Of those who already plan on quitting their current full-time jobs, 52% are considering the move to freelancing. The main incentive: flexibility.
“The [COVID-19] pandemic gave people a chance to try being remote, and they like it because of the benefits that it brings,” said Dr. Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.
People who have seen the value of work-from-home benefits, like increased personal time and the lack of a commute, are even willing to trade away traditional work benefits, like health insurance and pay. Nearly a quarter of respondents, or 24%, say they are willing to take a pay cut to work remotely, and 35% would consider it, the report shows.
Workers have gained more agency over their work life, deciding when and how much they work. “It reflects a change in mindset and priority for some workers,” Ozimek added.
As more professionals add value to remote work and flexibility, employers may have to rethink their approach to hiring and retaining their workforce.
“Employers that do not leverage freelance talent will be missing out on a growing chunk of the labor force,” Ozimek said in the report. “This will be even worse for those who also insist that work must be done in person.”
The desire for work flexibility is among a number of factors driving the ‘Great Resignation,’ with unemployment insurance, supply shortages, and temporarily tight labor markets also contributing.
Americans still want to work from home, even if it’s just part of the week. But some industries are saying it’s time to come back to the office. In other words, the end of working from your couch is nigh.
Data from Gallup updated through April 2021 show that 72% of full-time workers in white-collar jobs were working from home compared to just 14% in blue-collar jobs.
Insider looked at the jobs in which people are still working from home and found that exceptions to this trend include computer and mathematical jobs.
Jed Kolko, the chief economist at Indeed, noted on Twitter that remote work has “fallen dramatically” for education, training, and library jobs as well as community and social services jobs.
“For some sectors, [work from home] looks here to stay,” Kolko wrote on Twitter. “Others, not so much.”
As seen in the following chart, of the 11 occupations that we looked at where at least 30% of employees reported working from home because of the pandemic in May 2020, nine had shares of around 50% or higher in May 2020. This is when companies were telling some workers to work from home amid the pandemic as businesses closed in part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
However, only one of these 11 occupations had a share of 50% in June 2021, the most recent month with available data. Legal and business occupations still had a relatively high share of people working from because of the pandemic in June 2021, at 40%.
Computer and mathematical occupations also had a high share of people working remotely because of the pandemic in May 2021, at 55.0%. Community and social services occupations had a share of 29.1% in May 2021, much lower than the share during the same month a year ago.
Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider in an email that there are several types of jobs, including tech, where workers may be especially interested continuing remote work life.
“As COVID-19 cases decline, many employers are planning to reopen offices and are ready to welcome back employees,” Zhao said. “Workers in tech, marketing, HR, finance and others mostly working behind a computer are more likely to want a hybrid or fully remote workflow, if they wish.”
Although the share for computer and mathematical occupations didn’t drop as much as some of the other occupations, some tech workers may need to be coming back to the office soon. Some large tech companies plan to have workers come into the office at least part of the time, such as Google and Apple.
However, some Apple employees aren’t too excited about this plan. Insider’s Sarah Jackson reported that around 90% of roughly 1,700 Apple employees who answered “location-flexible working options are a very important issue to me” said they strongly agreed.
But for some in tech, being fully remote as many were over the past year may still be an option. LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence of around 8,900 US workers surveyed showed that tech workers were most likely among the industries noted to say their work is allowing them to work from home all the time. Transportation and logistics followed closely behind with 46% of workers in the industry saying this.
According to a survey of 1,000 employees, 39% said they would quit if their bosses weren’t flexible with them working from home. LinkedIn data also shows 87% of over 302,000 employees surveyed said they want to work at least part of the time from home.
“This hybrid workforce is expected to become the norm, and in today’s competitive labor market, employers would be wise to rethink mandatory reentry policies and embrace flexible, hybrid work environments going forward,” Zhao wrote in an email.
A senior Google executive has caused uproar at the company after reportedly moving to New Zealand to work remotely despite opposing remote work for the company’s lower-ranking employees.
Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, told staff on June 29 that he’s headed to New Zealand for a year to work remotely, according to reporting published Thursday in CNET. His move has fed claims of special treatment and a double standard in the company’s stance towards remote work. He strongly opposed remote work for Google employees who didn’t have a certain seniority level or wouldn’t be assigned to an office, a resigning employee told CNET.
“After three decades in the US, my wife and I both felt it was time to consider a new location,” Hölzle wrote in a company memo reviewed by CNET. “We’ve decided to spend a year in New Zealand and see how we like it.”
Hölzle requested and got approval for the move last year, before Google announced its plans to return to the office, but was delayed in his relocation because of the pandemic, a company spokesperson told Insider.
Hölzle also said in the announcement that he will continue to work on California time and will drop by the office occasionally, saying he plans to be in the Bay Area “on a regular basis” as travel restrictions ease.
“If things go well, we may decide to stay longer,” he continued in the memo. “I’m looking forward to this adventure and to sharing the results of our relocation ‘experiment’ with you.”
Google has previously announced plans to have most employees start returning to the office in September for three days a week. The company later modified those plans to say 20% of employees can work from new office locations and 20% can work remotely. The remaining 60% will come in the office a few days each week.
In response to a question from Insider about whether Hölzle opposed remote work for Google employees who didn’t have a certain seniority level or wouldn’t be assigned to an office, the Google spokesperson said, “All employees are eligible to apply for either remote status or to work in another city.”
The spokesperson added: “We expect our hybrid model to evolve over time given the wide scope of the business and needs at the team and function level.”
As the US opens up, more and more employees are telling their bosses they want flexible and hybrid working arrangements.
“Three-quarters of our individuals around the world said flexibility is what they want,” Devika Bulchandani, North America CEO of Ogilvy, said.
Bulchandani said that Ogilvy, like many other firms, is also looking at a 3/2 working model and considering other positive changes it can introduce.
“We also shrunk our real-estate footprint because that allows us to reinvest into different areas of the business and reinvest into our people and what they need going forward,” she said.
She added that they’re instituting three compulsory days off per quarter for each employee to manage burnout.
“Just because we did it doesn’t mean we’re going to do it again,” she said. “Things like, do people need to travel to a meeting? Let’s ask ourselves why.”
Bulchandani said that she’s telling her staff to question whether there’s a perspective missing from the room in terms of gender, race, or disability, as well as capability.
“I have a different skillset, would this team do better? And then my question is, ‘Am I just thinking about New York, or should I be thinking about somebody from our Minneapolis office?'” she said.
In a similar vein, Heimann said that the “democratic” and inclusive nature of the virtual world is something her firm is trying to maintain as employees return to work.
Office space, she said, “will be a creative nexus, it will be a collaboration nexus, it will be a team nexus.” As for remote offices, Heimann said that they’re looking at a broad range of technologies that do more than simply combat “Zoom fatigue.”
“I think that the new age is going to be a little more immersive, more gaming-like, and those are the ones we’re testing,” she said. Weber Shandwick also hired a chief workforce innovation officer and a chief impact officer to push leadership toward “transformation that puts inclusion at the heart.”
“We talked to client after client about the need to solve at the intersections and therefore put together agile, cross-functional teams to bring that ability to clients again,” she said.
The email from your boss that you’ve been dreading has finally landed in your inbox. It’s the message announcing the date everyone in your company is expected to be back in the office full time. So, what’s the problem? You don’t want to go. The past year has shown you that work-from-home life is the life for you. You’ve come to love the freedom and flexibility and you’re convinced you’re now a better employee, too. The question is: How do you convince your boss?
You may be tempted to drop an ultimatum and say, “If you make me go back to the office full time, I’ll quit.” But your company could call your bluff, and if you enjoy your job and you’re paid well, walking away may not be the answer.
So how do you ask your boss for a flexible work schedule without looking like you’re asking for special treatment?
First, remember that you’re not asking for something outlandish.
“I think a lot of leaders know we don’t want to go back, and many corporations have had flexible or hybrid work environments for a long time,” said Kimberly Cummings, founder of the professional development company Manifest Yourself. “So don’t feel like you’re being a diva or asking for too much.”
You must lead the conversation about a flexible work schedule with a discussion of what you bring to the table, not just what you want and why you want it.
“The biggest thing that people forget is that you’re negotiating based upon value, not overall desire,” Cummings said. “Think about what you’ve accomplished over the past year. Think about how you’ve proven that you’re able to work remotely.”
Approach the conversation armed with evidence, too.
“Show examples of how your productivity increased and how having a flexible work schedule made you a better worker,” said Martha Underwood, founder of ExecutivEstrogen, a mentorship program for women in corporate America.
Maybe you work in customer service and your flexible schedule allows you more time to research complex issues and give customers a more thorough response to their questions.
The goal is to show your employer how a flexible work schedule would benefit them as much as it helps you.
Underwood says it won’t hurt to present findings like these to your boss, too.
“And so many women have dropped out of the workplace that it benefits employers to allow the flexibility to keep strong women talent in the ranks,” Underwood said.
When asking your boss for a flexible work schedule, clarity is key.
“Give a full proposal about what your schedule will look like,” Cummings said. “Are you looking to never come back or are you looking to only come back when there are important meetings?”
If you’re open to coming back into the office for some meetings, say so.
“Bosses want to have a sense of a team,” Cummings said.
Is working from home the best option for you?
Before talking to your boss about keeping your work-from-home life alive, do some soul searching to be sure it’s the best fit for you.
“Were you OK working remotely? A lot of people were not,” Cummings said. “As a people leader myself, I 100% agree why some leaders want their team to come back. A lot of workers like flexibility, but they took advantage.”
If you were at the bar with your friends before the workday was done – and before your work was complete – you may want to start by proposing a hybrid schedule of working from home just a couple of days per week.
“Offer to do a trial of this for 90 days and then reassess if it works,” Cummings said.
Superstar employees need to also weigh the pros and cons of remote work.
If you have your sights on promotion opportunities or if your job has a relationship-driven company culture, being out of the office all the time could hinder your advancement.
“You have to know the culture of your organization and if it would be beneficial for you to pop your head in sometimes just to make sure they see your face and you have some of that in-person connection,” Cummings said.
There are ways to stand out even when working from home. Ask great questions in virtual meetings. When a meeting is cancelled or ends early, use that time to hop on a call with a leader at your company.
“You have to be proactive and build those relationships,” Cummings said.
Take some time to consider why you truly want to work from home, too. Do you simply enjoy the freedom and flexibility or were you miserable at work?
“Make sure you’re not just trying to escape,” Cummings said. Does your job allow you to work according to your strengths, passions, and skills? If not, it may be time to dust off the resume.
Yet talking about and receiving accommodations for chronic pain and fatigue is still widely considered taboo in the workplace.
I live with the autoimmune disease vasculitis, which is characterized by chronic fatigue and pain. This means when I go to work, either virtually or in person, my symptoms follow me to my job.
Managers can do a lot to improve the experiences of employees like me by taking just a few simple steps – here’s how.
Be approachable and offer accommodations
Supervisors shouldn’t push employees to talk about their chronic pain or fatigue if they don’t want to, but rather make themselves more available should an employee want to open up.
“I think by asking open-ended questions about their chronic pain, managers can signal to their workers that they are open to discussing accommodations,” Rachelle Scott, director of psychiatry at Eden Health, told Insider. “Meeting employees with compassion is really important here. Many of us show up to work with so much that we don’t share with others.”
Scott recommended asking employees if they need to take breaks and encourage them to do so. Supervisors can also ask what types of accommodations would help them avoid triggers for their chronic pain and fatigue.
Other small steps, such as offering options for different types of desks, chairs, or other office equipment, can go a long way.
Vanessa Ford, cofounder of MenoLabs, a company that sells probiotic supplements, told Insider she wasn’t comfortable discussing how her scoliosis and insomnia affected her during the workday when she was younger, but this changed when she moved up the corporate structure.
“I purchased a standing desk and ergonomic chairs so that I could better address my health needs, and I understand that my employees need those same kinds of considerations as well, having suffered from it myself,” she said.
Trust employees to work where they’re most comfortable
Some employees dealing with chronic pain or fatigue may produce better work from home, as having their own space allows them to better manage their symptoms than if they worked in an office.
Make sure remote work isn’t just acceptable but encouraged for members of your team. If you’re hiring, also consider making remote work the default option on job descriptions.
“Throughout the pandemic, remote work has empowered me and others with disabilities,” Jennifer Sanchez, a social-media manager for the Cook County government in Illinois who lives with vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, told Insider. “We were able to work safely, efficiently, and productively while also taking care of our health needs.”
Recognize that not all chronic illnesses are visible
People with invisible disabilities, such as fibromyalgia, may face an additional barrier of dealing with managers who question just how debilitating their illness could be.
Managers shouldn’t question the medical needs of a worker if they’re still able to perform their job. One tip is to focus on output or impact rather than hours worked.
Sara Youngblood Gregory, who lives with arthritis, chronic pain, and injuries from a car accident, told Insider she faced barriers when she needed to go to physical therapy while working as a union organizer.
“I felt my boss gave me an extremely hard time about going to physical therapy, despite the medical necessity and doctor’s note I had,” she said. “My boss was disabled herself. I’m really grateful I could turn to my staff union for support and guidance.”
The journey of remote work from home gives you full financial freedom. To achieve this, avoid these freelancer mistakes mentioned in this article. These days, a regular 9 to 5 job paying a specific amount of money will not help meet our financial needs. Day by day the price of all commodities is increasing and […]
Fiverr Marketplace is a great platform to generate extra revenue. Know the top-selling Fiverr Gig Ideas that can multiply your income. Nowadays with a 9-5 job people find it hard to manage their monthly expenses. People are looking for additional income and these Fiverr Gig Ideas can provide you great earnings. Here comes the importance […]
And Palm Beach County, located just north of Miami, has stood out. Elliott Management is planning on moving its headquarters there, Citadel Securities based its trading-floor’s COVID-19 bubble at a hotel there, and hundreds of families have relocated to the county.
Insider spoke to parties involved in the local economy, including the mayors of Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Palm Beach town, to understand what’s driving people to move to the area.
‘We punch above our weight in terms of business strength’
Palm Beach County has been working to drive a migration of businesses for around 10 years, Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the county’s Business Development Board (BDB), told Insider.
The county realized that executives were buying second houses or coming for vacations in Florida, but owned a large business in another state. So the BDB approached them about bringing their business to Florida, Smallridge said.
“That initiative has turned out to be the most lucrative economic development initiative in the last 40 years,” Smallridge said.
The BDB isn’t the only group actively recruiting businesses to move to the county. West Palm Beach mayor Keith James told Insider that the city had been reaching out to financial-services companies for years – not just in New York but in other Northeast states including Vermont and Connecticut, alongside some companies as far afield as California.
“We’ve seen tremendous interest in companies relocating to Boca Raton,” Scott Singer, the mayor of Boca Raton, told Insider.
He said the city had been fielding “plenty” of inbound calls, but that it had also launched targeted advertising in the New York, Chicago, and San Francisco markets, including promoting its technology business hub.
The three mayors told Insider they had especially noticed increasing levels of interest from venture capital, private equity, hedge fund, and financial-services companies, feeding into a state-wide trend.
Hedge fund Elliott Management is in final-stage talks to move its headquarters from Manhattan to West Palm Beach, while Maryland-based mortgage company New Day USA is leasing 50,000 square feet of office space as a second headquarters in the city.
Almost 2,500 financial-service firms have offices in the county, employing 37,000 people in total, according to the BDB.
But other industries are growing, too. West Palm Beach is targeting the marine and medical industries for future growth, while Singer said that Bacon Raton has been a tech hub for decades, noting that IBM developed the first personal computer there in 1981.
Singer said Boca Raton had the number of corporate headquarters you’d expect from a city of four or five times its size. These include the headquarters of The Office Depot, ADT, and Bluegreen Vacations.
“We punch above our weight in terms of business strength,” Singer said.
He said Boca Raton has a “rich entrepreneurial environment” and “an ecosystem that supports business and entrepreneurs,” in part thanks to actions of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also points to the collaboration between groups such as the Palm Beach’s BDB, the regional Chamber, and Enterprise Florida.
Boca Raton alone has three college campus that create a pipeline of intellectual capital for businesses relocating to the area, McLellan said.
There are a lot of transport developments either in place or in the pipeline for Palm Beach County, too.
The county has an international airport, which more than six million passengers pass through each year. Even the most northern part of the county, Jupiter, is located just 90 minutes’ drive from Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports for a wider range of long-haul flights.
Boca Raton also has its own general aviation airport, while West Palm Beach is planning to launch a study into the feasibility of direct flights from the city to the Caribbean to benefit its marine sector.
And traveling from West Palm Beach to the rest of Florida is getting easier after it was connected to Miami through Brightline, a rail system with investments from Richard Branson’s Virgin, John Boyd of the Boyd Company said. The route will be expanded to include Orlando and its airport as well as Tampa, too.
This transport network is luring both businesses and people to the county.
Singer said there had been “tremendous interest” from executives with businesses overseas, who wanted to open offices or even locate to Boca Raton because of its transport links. Meanwhile, West Palm Beach says it has “one of Florida’s most walkable central business districts,” reducing the need to commute.
People were already migrating – but the pandemic sped this up
Not only have businesses been moving to the county but people have flocked there, too.
Palm Beach County’s population grew by around 14.2% over the past decade, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau. This is almost double the rate of overall US population growth. Its population sits at around 1.5 million, making it Florida’s third-largest county by population and second-largest by size.
This growth isn’t just because of the natural population increases that you would expect over time. There has also been soaring rates of both domestic and international migration. The county’s net migration was around 11,500 in 2020, according to US Census Bureau estimates – compared to a net migration loss of 23,625 for New York County, which has a similar population.
Many of these migrants are coming from the Northeast. Around two in five people moving to Palm Beach County come from the New York City area, per a report by Unacast. But some also come from cities like Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, or even from countries like India and Brazil, Boyd said.
Forbes identifies Palm Beach County as Florida’s billionaire hub. The 2,600-square-mile county has around 44 billionaires, Smallridge said. This is roughly as many as there are in the entirety of Los Angeles, according to Wealth-X’s 2020 Billionaire Census, and includes Interactive Brokers founder Thomas Peterffy, hedge-fund manager David Tepper, and food-and-drink entrepreneur Jude Reyes, per Forbes.
It’s also the home of Mar-a-Lago, the US’s second-largest mansion, owned by former President Donald Trump.
The county also has around 71,000 millionaire households, Smallridge said. Oracle Founder Larry Ellison recently bought an $80 million house in the county, though he plans to stay living in Hawaii full-time, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger sold his house in Greenwich, Connecticut to move to Palm Beach.
Danielle Moore, the mayor of the town of Palm Beach, said it had a reputation as “the hometown of ‘captains of industry,'” which she said motivated even more people to move there.
People had already been migrating to the county before the pandemic but COVID-19 forced people to address their work-life balance, alongside the deterioration of office culture, the mayors said.
Alongside companies opening up offices in the city, the rise in remote working during the pandemic has led to digital nomads flocking to the county.
Moore said the town of Palm Beach was experiencing the lowest inventory of available homes “in decades,” and house prices across the county have gone up around 10% over the past year as more and more people relocate.
“When they were closed down, we had plenty of recreation space and great weather year-round, and people are understanding more and more that this is where they want to be,” he added.
Alongside retirees, Florida is also associated with seasonal residents who move to the state for the colder winter months, and Moore said that the town of Palm Beach’s population more than doubles during the peak season.
But when people relocated to Florida, many started enrolling their children at nearby schools, and soon found themselves settled down in the state, Smallridge said.
Palm Beach County’s median age is 43.6, “and that number is probably going to stay steady even as we all age because younger people are being born and coming here every day,” Singer said.
“Most executives will go take a swim in the beach before they even go to work,” Smallridge said. “They never have to shovel snow and they don’t have to ride with the subway.”
But even as more people migrate to the county, some to work remotely while others to work for the companies opening new offices in the area, this trend is ultimately creating more employment opportunities for local residents, James said. He added that West Palm Beach has offered financial incentives to companies moving to the city based on the number of jobs they create, including expedited permit reviews and tax exemptions.
McLellan, meanwhile, said Boca Raton was trying to create a pipeline of future talent for businesses in the area, and that the Chamber was working to discourage residents from migrating away from the city.
Ultimately Palm Beach County is positioning itself as not just a major financial-services hub, but also a destination for families, young graduates, and high-flying execs to move to.
This is perhaps best summed up by West Palm Beach’s tagline: “business, life, balanced.”
The post-pandemic economy will look different from the one seen in February 2020. In a word, it will be emptier. Gone are the days of an office-based 9-to-5; instead, workplaces are rolling out plans for hybrid telecommuting and even fully remote work.
But where work-from-home will benefit Americans in reducing commute times and granting extra flexibility, nobody knows just how much it will hit the urban economies that used to support office workers in the before times. University of Chicago researchers have an idea, or at least an estimate.
The post-pandemic shift to work-from-home setups will decrease spending in major metropolitan areas by 5% to 10%, researchers Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven Davis said in a working paper published on Wednesday. The shortfall could even reach 13% in densely populated areas like Manhattan, the team added, citing their own survey data.
“As these workers cut back on commuting, they will spend less on food, shopping, personal services, and entertainment near workplaces clustered in city centers,” the economists said. “Central business districts will see considerably larger spending drops relative to the pre-pandemic levels.”
Such a spending drop would present a major challenge for cities looking to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. Consumer spending counts for roughly 70% of economic activity and is a particularly important economic driver in areas that faced strict lockdowns throughout the health crisis.
Retail sales – a popular gauge of Americans’ spending habits – surged to record highs last month as a new wave of stimulus checks and the relaxing of some economic restrictions boosted activity. The measure is expected to climb even higher in April, but as stimulus dries up, Americans’ spending will settle into a new normal.
Cities have little to counter a permanent drop in metro-area spending. Where the federal government can spend at a persistent and growing deficit, state and local authorities have to balance their budgets. The drop in spending forecasted by the team of economists could force cities to either lift taxes or cut spending and risk more economic harm.
What is challenging for urban economies could be a benefit to how good people are at their jobs. Widespread telecommuting is projected to lift productivity by 4.8%, according to the study. Half of those gains reflect savings in diminished commuting times.
Still, those likely to benefit from more remote work aren’t the ones who need the boost. Employer plans suggest that the extent of telecommuting will rise with education and earnings, the team said. The benefits of persistent work-from-home policies “will be broadly felt but flow mainly to the better educated and highly paid,” they added.
With economic data and experts warning of an uneven economic recovery, such disparities would only exacerbate the hiring and income gaps that plagued the country before the COVID-19 recession.