Flexibility and Purpose – Workforce Turns to Gig in Pursuit of the Ultimate Work-Life Blend

One in five US employees are part of the gig economy, 85% of whom are interested in continuing contract work in the next five years

Thirty million American workers rely on gig work as their primary income source and 67% of full-time employees indicated interest in gig work over their current jobs, according to MetLife’s latest report, “The Gig Economy: Opportunities, Challenges, and Employer Strategies.” The report’s findings demonstrate the fundamental impact gig work is having on the American workforce in the changing work-life world, as employees are increasingly drawn to the allure of flexibility, autonomy and desire for purpose in their work.

“However, these gig roles often come without benefits, which is why MetLife is exploring ways to offer benefit solutions to this growing segment of the workforce.”

Defined as work based on a fixed-term contract or that is paid per project by a company, third party or online marketplace, gig work has made a major impact on the economy. In addition to the 30 million Americans generating their primary income from gig, another 15 million workers supplement “traditional” full-time work with “gigging/freelancing.” These numbers are only set to rise.

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“As interest in gig continues to swell, employers who take the time to understand gig workers—and think through their needs and wants from work—will reap the benefits of a more engaged, diverse and satisfied workforce,” said James Reid, executive vice president, Global Employee Benefits, MetLife. “By creating experiences within the workplace that offer the same gig-like diversity of exposure, purpose-driven work and flexibility, employers can also satisfy full-time employees’ interest in gig work.”

Rise of the Gig Economy

MetLife’s report found that 85% of gig workers are interested in continuing contract work in the next five years, versus a more traditional work role. Additionally, almost 20% of full-time employees are already earning extra cash through side hustles and, of those, 49% intend to leave their current employer for contract or freelance work in the next five years. This trend provides a serious challenge for traditional employers who need to understand the overlapping interests of both gig workers and full-time employees to retain and attract highly-qualified talent.

“Our research shows that workers are turning to gig in the pursuit of creating the ultimate work-life blend where their careers meet income needs, provide a flexible schedule, and also give them a sense of purpose,” Reid said. “However, these gig roles often come without benefits, which is why MetLife is exploring ways to offer benefit solutions to this growing segment of the workforce.”

In addition to flexibility and autonomy, gig enables workers to pursue projects that are meaningful to them and provide a sense of purpose. Nearly half (47%) of gig workers say they work to gain a sense of fulfillment and self-worth, and that they are more satisfied with their current freelance and contract work than their previous traditional work roles (45%). Gig workers see work as necessary to fulfilling their higher needs. In fact, one in three say that purposeful work would attract them to a full-time job.

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Attracting and Engaging Gig Talent

Few employers today offer subsidized benefits to their gig population, if at all. Only 4% of gig workers report their employer offers medical insurance and only 5% say their employer offers a retirement plan. Many employers also fail to provide access to other traditional and non-traditional benefits, including dental and vision, short-term and long-term disability and accident insurance.

This indicates a missed opportunity when it comes to leveraging benefits to attract existing and potential gig talent. According to MetLife’s report, 43% of gig workers say employers can offer better benefits to attract them to consider a full-time job. Additionally, 29% of full-time employees who intend to leave their jobs for gig in the next five years say better benefits may make them stay.

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Benefits Strategy with Gig Workers in Mind

In the ongoing war for talent, understanding the evolution of what traditional full-time employees and gig workers want from work can help employers create real and meaningful solutions. Gig workers have ever-increasing resources to find jobs and opportunities, giving them the power to pick and choose which organizations best meet their benefit needs as well as desires for meaningful and purpose-filled work.

Over the next few months, MetLife will continue to explore the gig space through research initiatives and in-market testing. These efforts will provide additional insights into the benefits needs of gig workers, enabling MetLife to develop solutions that will bring value to this important and growing segment of the workforce.

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HR Technology NewsJames ReidMetLifeNEWSThe Gig Economy
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