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21 Gig Economy Leaders Share How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Impacting The Freelance Workforce

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Once again, I’ve solicited the comments of leaders of the freelance revolution around the globe, and received their current reports from many. I asked each to give readers their best intelligence on the short and longer term intentions of clients—whether startup, small business, or large corporateto utilize freelancers and independent management consultants in the “coronavirus economy.” Here’s an overview of the big messages:

  • Freelancer and consultant utilization is generally up, largely for those working remotelycompleting essential projects, augmenting critical skills, and transitioning companies to a remote workforce
  • Over the medium term, expectations for freelance business is more somber; many platform CEO’s fear a drop in demand as clients eliminate or reduce discretionary project spending to weather the recession. However, they do not generally believe it will be long lasting
  • Overall, belief in the long term future for freelancers and independent management consultants is bright. It’s just getting through the storm that’s top of mind for these CEO’s

Read on to learn what leaders of the freelance revolution had to say in the last couple of days:

Rob Biederman, Co-CEO of Catalant: “Our early indicators show a significant rise in interest: inbound web traffic has doubled. We’ve seen an increase in areas of operational efficiency, project management and finance, and a decrease in marketing communications projects. Customers are continuing their most strategic projects and re-booking experts to continue work previously started. Our customers are also seeking experts with skills they never expected, for example, helping hospitals find crisis communications experts and epidemiologists to help a multinational business assess the impact of COVID-19.” 

Mathieu Stevenson, CEO of Snagajob: “We are in the early days of a rapid shift in employment across sectors where the gig economy operates. While sectors such as hospitality and travel have been hit hard, our survey data shows 35% of employers plan to add staff in the coming weeks—particularly in sectors such as grocery, pharmacy, warehousing, cleaning, and delivery. As the economy rebounds, I suspect gig will play a key role as employers will value the flexibility it provides while they navigate uncertain demand.”

Bryan Peña, MBOPartners Head of Market Strategy: “We are seeing a lot of uncertainty, but not many clients making immediate reductions in the near term and have seen no appreciable reduction in demand. In fact some have identified unique needs that may increase usage of independent resources in healthcare and business turnaround. In downward business cycles, companies rethink the way they get things done. The forced migration to remote work brought about by COVID-19 will advance the openness of companies to leverage the independent workforce.  For the long term we see an increased role for freelance or independent management consulting.”

Marc Ibrahim, CEO of Ashghali in Lebanon: “We are noticing an increase in demand for everything related to remote work. There’s no demand anymore for gigs related to event planning. Home Services gigs have decreased to the strict minimum.”

Ashmita Das, CEO of Kolabtree in the U.K.: “Perhaps due to our speciality in science and healthcare, we’ve seen a rise in projects involving hand sanitizer production and Covid-19 research. We also saw a 60% spike in freelancer registrations on Kolabtree last month. One client recently told us: “With the COVID-19 crisis we will rely on independent contractors in a much larger way.”

Charles Thomas, CEO of Comet in Paris: “The business climate in France is gloomy. Our clients are currently in a fog regarding their own forecasts; most told us that, unfortunately, they will drastically decrease their demand for contractors, freelancers, and external agencies. Most of the projects already signed are still live, but 80% of clients said they might not need freelancers until late Q3. We hope that this forecast is not 100% valid but we’re preparing for the worst to get through 2020 with low revenues.”

James Sandoval, CEO of MeasureMatch, a U.K. marketing marketplace: “The economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is going to put a lot of pressure, if not completely break, many small to mid-sized professional service providers (e.g. agencies, consultancies and freelance consultants) participating in the MeasureMatch marketplace.”

Abby Forman of Fiverr the Israeli based global platform: “One of our clients put it this way: ‘We are very protective of our team and won’t hire someone unless we can commit to them for the long haul. So, during these uncertain times hiring freelancers to augment our team makes even more sense. In doing so, we can offer our clients the quality they require without taking on additional risk as a company.’” 

Jeff Tennery, CEO of Moonlighting: “Fear is high, as freelancers and independent workers have enjoyed more steady income over the past 4-5 years. Many of our freelancers are also exploring full time jobs.”

Stephanie Nadi Olsen, CEO of We Are Rosie: “No intel on longer term planning; our clients are focused on stabilizing their core team. In the short term, clients are leveraging independent marketers as their core team becomes understandably less productive in the midst of all the disruption. Our clients are asking for teams who can bolt onto their core organization and handle entire projects from strategy-to-execution. Our individual consultants are getting renewed and extended to provide longer term support for their brands. And we are seeing high demand for individual niche experts who have remote-working experience to jump in as an extra pair of expert hands.”

Jeffrey Moss, CEO of Parker-Dewey: “For short term, it’s a mix of issues depending on the company and role. Companies that have hired summer interns are focused on contingency planning and exploring how remote work can fit in. Many companies are seeing a spike in immediate needs by current employees and are using freelancers or student freelancers.”

Gabe Luna-Ostaseski, Co-Founder of BrainTrust: “Our client companies need to get critical work done and the old models of interviewing people in offices and taking 6 weeks to onboard new people won’t work. They need speed and super high-quality people that can step in immediately. We’re seeing customers expand the scope of their engagements.”

Anthony Beilin, CEO of Collective Benefits: “At Collective Benefits, our clients are on-demand marketplaces and platforms many of which are at the front lines of this crisis, including staffing hospitals, care homes, delivering food, logistics and mobility. Some of our partners are seeing unprecedented demand and are worried about their ability to cope with this crisis, especially if 50%+ of their workforce becomes ill. They need to attract new workers at scale and in a short time frame. Clearly there are also examples to the contrary—with clients in the personal beauty, wellness, and hospitality space facing a tremendous challenge in the near term. For them survival is key.” 

Emma El Karout, CEO of One Circle, an HR platform serving the Mideast and Africa: “Corporates, primarily in emerging countries, are scrambling and asking our freelancers to help on a range of issues: performance/incentive pay, legal restrictions to unpaid leave, and ensuring benefits coverage for home-bound workers. There is an immediate need from companies for expert support related to the impact and stress of having distributed teams imposed overnight, and our freelancers are providing support. Everything is short-term right now, wait and see being the overwhelming approach.”

Mathias Linneman, Cofounder and CCO of Worksome in Denmark: “Our clients are preparing for a global recession in the aftermath of Coronavirus. Some will cut back on permanent positions and hire more freelancers and independent consultants. We’re expecting highly skilled freelancers to see a surge in demand in 3-6 months, but a steep drop before that time during a “shock” period. In times of great uncertainty it becomes harder to foresee the workforce you’ll need. Access to agile talent from the freelancer community, can be a competitive advantage allowing rapid expansion and contraction.” 

Niclas Thelander, Cofounder of Outsized in the U.K. and Sweden: “Given our focus on South Asia, SE Asia and Africa, we’re a bellwether for emerging markets. So far the impact is small, but this may change quickly. In South Africa and India, companies are focused on immediate priorities: business continuity, remote access for employees and so forth. Many companies will cut non-fixed costs and external consultants fall into that bracket. In SE Asia, most clients have a freeze on new hires and independent consultants. Longer term, we will see two competing forces: companies will move toward flexible operating models, but talent may be more wary of a freelance career.” 

John Winsor, CEO of Open-Assembly in the U.S.: “I’d say everyone is still in shock and taking this week to assess what’s happening. It doesn’t feel like we’ve hit bottom here. I’d say that people are starting to operate on two tracks. 1. Closing up their pre-virus operations. 2. Building a new, post-virus organization. For instance, in NYC the average cost of office space per employee is estimated at $25,000 per person. Now that people have been working remotely pretty well, it doesn’t seem that offices will stay the same.” 

Scott Cole, Head of Marketing for AceUp, a coaching platform in Boston: “At the moment our clients are telling us that they’ll continue to engage with our executive coaches, and that it’s more important than ever during times like these. Our coaches are uniquely suited to help our clients in these difficult times, and we are finding all the ways that we can to go above and beyond to support our clients.”

Jay Bregman, CEO of Thimble, an on-demand insurance partner for freelancers: “In the short term, we see volatility. We’ve had a spike in policy cancellations, but we expect this to rebound once restrictions are lifted and pent-up demand returns. Additionally, we are seeing a 41% increase in policies for cleaners and janitors in the past three weeks alone, and expect this sector to continue to surge.”

Chris Dwyer of Ardent Partners: “The businesses that have leveraged agile workforce strategies will best absorb some of the impact and better plan for an uncertain future. Some businesses will require freelance talent to survive, just as they did 12 years ago during the last economic downturn. Longer-term, most businesses may be in a situation that will actually necessitate alternative workforce strategies until the market conditions are more favorable, and, most importantly, back to normal.”

Makan Avini of Homebase, working with gigsters in the hospitality industries writes: “As of yesterday, almost 1 out of 3 hourly employees did not go to work in the U.S. In San Francisco the number was almost 3 out of 5.”

Viva la revolution!

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How Proposition 22 Blocks Cities and Counties From Giving Hazard Pay to Gig Workers

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Haney added that Proposition 22 has given gig companies legal grounds to sue and block an ordinance like this if they decide they don’t want to comply with it.

“Sometimes, as a local government, we are preempted by the states or feds, but usually when that’s the case, another regulatory body or the state Legislature is taking up the responsibility,” Haney said. “What’s the case here is that some regulations that were written into law by the companies and passed by the voters have made it impossible for anyone to provide more extensive and stronger regulations.”

Rey Fuentes, a legal fellow at the Partnership for Working Families, said California cities and counties have a history of pioneering progressive pro-worker legislation, like San Francisco’s paid sick leave program, which he said was the first of its kind in the nation.

Fuentes said it’s important for municipalities to test new policies out so that there are models for state and federal laws. “This allows for the experimentation that I think is so vital to our democracy and to developing good policy,” he said.

While grocery stores are pushing back on the hazard pay by temporarily closing locations and threatening legal action, gig companies don’t have to. Proposition 22 stops local governments from even trying to get higher wages or better benefits for gig workers, halting local experimentation with policy that could help the state’s growing number of app-based gig workers who are denied employee benefits and protections.

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IIROC Trading Halt – GIG.P – Yahoo Finance

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UK Deliveroo riders to strike over pay, gig work conditions

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Wednesday, April 07 2021
AP

LONDON (AP) — Riders for the app-based meal delivery platform Deliveroo held a strike in London Wednesday over pay and working conditions, part of a broader backlash against one of the U.K.’s biggest gig economy companies.

Scooter and bicycle delivery riders waving flags and red smoke flares rode through the streets of Central London. Socially distanced protests were also planned in York, Reading, Sheffield and Wolverhampton to demand fair pay, safety protections and basic workers’ rights.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which represents migrant and gig workers, expected hundreds of riders to take part.

Deliveroo said that “this small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy.” Rider surveys found most are happy with the company and flexibility was their priority, the company said in a statement.

The strike coincides with the first day of unconditional share trading for Deliveroo, which went public last week in a multibillion pound stock offering that was one of Europe’s most hotly anticipated IPOs this year. However, a number of institutional investors skipped the initial public offering, citing concerns about employment conditions for riders and a dual-class shareholder structure that gives founder Will Shu outsize control.

The company, which operates in a dozen countries in Europe, the Mideast and Asia, saw its business boom over the past year because of COVID-19 restrictions that powered demand for meal deliveries. More than 6 million customers order through its app each month and the company promised some longtime riders bonuses from the IPO.

However, riders say they haven’t been sharing in the success because the company has been paying them less.

The “success they claim to have had during the pandemic was built on our backs,” said Wave Roberts, a Deliveroo rider in Reading and vice chair of the union’s couriers branch. “It’s not sustainable. It’s got to the point where they’ve hired too many people. They’ve lowered the fees too much.”

Deliveroo and other gig companies in the U.K. that rely on flexible workforces are also facing looming regulatory challenges, after the U.K.’s top court ruled Uber drivers should be classed as “workers” and not self-employed, entitling them to benefits such as minimum wage and pensions.

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For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/apf-technology

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Follow Kelvin Chan at www.twitter.com/chanman

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This story corrects Roberts’ title to vice chair of union’s couriers branch.

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