Featured first on CHRO South Africa – 4 May 2020
One Circle founder Emma El-Karout provides a reminder of the business case for remote and freelance work and shares ideas to prepare HR for ‘the big reset’.
The suddenness and almost immediate implementation of enforced work restrictions and remote work practices as a result of the pandemic may seem daunting to many and more specifically HR practitioners.
However, it is reassuring that large numbers of companies and individuals had already embraced new ways of working before Covid-19 made the whole world aware of this concept of social distancing.
Why did large companies such as Amazon, EY, Toyota, PwC, Microsoft (and too many others to name) choose to adopt remote and freelance work practices like remote work and on-demand freelancers without being forced to?
Simply put, it makes good business sense for jobs that can be done without physical presence. We understand that not all jobs can be done virtually or remotely, yet.
New approaches in key areas for those jobs that can be moved away from the office are being implemented regularly, and organisations need to take advantage of that if they want to thrive in this ‘new normal’.
For those that have been delaying the conversation with business leaders, here is a reminder of four key elements of the business case for freelance and remote work.
With a remote work arrangement or a distributed team, people work wherever they are with the right technology and, even if companies pick up costs related to home offices, these are a fraction compared to the costs of maintaining a central office.
At a time when businesses are trying to optimize costs, remote work provides a great opportunity to reduce rental commitments. Businesses, in general, pay 10 percent to 15 percent of their revenues in rent. Won’t that be a great alternative to letting go of employees, stretching the ones left behind, and destroying your culture and employer brand?
The rise of the freelancer economy means that companies can engage as many sub-function specialists as they choose, for as long as they want to. They can reach out to virtual freelance consultants on-demand. More freshness of thought injected in the system and suddenly the business has an ‘Augmented’ team of experts on-demand.
3 Duty of care
In relation to the possibility of infection, remote and flexible work arrangements are by nature socially distant. The physical risk of contamination hence is fully reduced. Other areas related to duty of care become more focused, such as psychological support and connectedness.
Businesses in South Africa need to start building a bio trust with their employees and community. Not easy to achieve if we ask everyone to come back to the office and revert back to business as usual. It is not business as usual.
When you use a freelancer, the work is delivered along with a transfer of skills to core teams. If anyone of this core team leaves, the freelancer can be the stopgap resource to provide continuity. It’s truly a plug-and-play solution for anyone that wants to reduce the landing period into a project. I mean, who doesn’t?
The business case is pretty compelling, so rather than treat the enforced restrictions as a disruption, businesses are starting to look at the inherent opportunities for building long-term structures that can future-proof business.
The big reset
Firstly, businesses now have access to a community of freelance talent from all over the world, a global pool of talent accessible at the click of a button. This virtually available pool of freelance consultants on-demand can help plan the move towards a flexible work program by scoping out a project plan and defining what needs to be done.
In an HR context, freelance consultants can support corporate workforce strategies by sharing practical insights on leveraging freelance consultants. They can help design or review work processes and workflows within a remote work culture, and quantify cost savings by developing flexible and remote organisation policies and strategies.
Lastly, they can break down business strategy to functional milestones, then cascade these even further into individual roles, so every person knows what is expected in order to deliver the strategy from remote or by using shared talent.
Thanks to great strides in the platform economy over the last few years it is not difficult to embed a freelance independent contractor in your regular workforce so long as you use an online platform that is reputable, offers assured payment mechanisms with well-defined simple methods and is made up of communities of subject matter experts giving you wide ranges of choice.
As businesses welcome the alternative viewpoints and focused output that external specialists and dispersed workers can offer, transformational breakthroughs will help them during this ‘big reset’ post-Covid-19.
It’s a huge reset for some as their whole business model will suddenly become less attractive. For others, it’s a reset for the digital transformation, budgets, ways of working and, mainly, people practices
The world is going through turbulent times. We blinked, and suddenly, the future of work became our truth. Companies worldwide have had to readjust to at least one aspect of this ‘new ‘normal’. It has been an extraordinary moment for remote work.
The new situation presents lots of opportunities but unfortunately also many complications. And most companies are not well set up to profit from the positive potential, nor deal with the negative fall-out in the new reality.
One Circle is a freelancing platform for independent HR consultants.
Where businesses of all sizes can find coaches and HR specialist consultants across the entire HR spectrum with multiple areas of expertise. If you are a business and are looking to get HR projects done, virtually, consider signing up!