Workforce and Hiring Trends for Employers in a Post-COVID World

SVP of Marketing & Strategic Alliances

Employers are beginning to open back up and are considering what their business and hiring will look like this summer and moving forward. We want to share trends in hiring temporary, contract, freelance and gig workers as a way to supplement and scale your staff. 

As part of their business recovery plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and related market uncertainty, many employers are using or evaluating flexible staffing options, such as gig workers, contractors and staffing agencies. Flexible staffing (also known as contingent hiring) enables a business to rapidly scale up or down in response to demand.

Contingent Staffing by the Numbers

Monster survey conducted during COVID-19 found that 57% of workers would take some kind of gig job while they are in-between jobs, 52% would like a long-term contract with flexible hours, and 39% want short-term contract or temp work. Additionally, research from PRO Unlimited found that 40% of all white-collar workers already fall into the temp or gig category, and expect that over half of skilled workers will be contingent by late 2021. A FlexJobs survey found that 36% of workers in the U.S. have been freelancing during the pandemic; an increase of 2 million since 2019.

A study of candidate sentiment by the American Staffing Association (ASA) supports evidence that employees’ preferred work arrangements have significantly shifted since the onset of COVID-19. Nearly 70% of survey respondents said that they find working remotely more preferable than at an onsite location now than they did before the pandemic.

Post-COVID Contingent Workforce Trends

A more flexible workforce. As companies make decisions about returning to in-office working, many are choosing to follow a hybrid model or blended workforce comprising employees who work remotely and those who work from an office or central location. This opens the metaphorical door for remote workers globally to work full time from anywhere. Digital tools like Slack, Teams, Trello and project management platforms allow for asynchronous work (work that does not occur at the same time), which means that some employees working in different time zones will be completing tasks while others are sleeping, and it repeats on continuous cycles.

New legislation around the gig economy. Traditionally, freelance labor regulations were focused on traditional employment practices. With such a large number of workers transitioning to gig or contract work, we can expect legislation to come around in the near future that changes labor regulations to ensure that gig workers have health benefits, retirement plans, and paid time off. While the passing of California ballot initiative Proposition 22 in the November election exempts gig companies like Uber and Lyft from having to classify workers as employees and pay into benefits like workers' compensation and health insurance, according to the LA TImes:

“[Prop 22] also requires that companies provide an hourly wage for time spent on rides equal to 120% of either the local or a statewide minimum wage. The measure grants workers driving at least 15 hours a week a stipend for health insurance coverage, and a larger one for those putting in 25 hours a week. Drivers will also have access to occupational accident insurance to cover on-the-job injuries, which would include coverage for medical expenses and disability benefits.”

An expansion of skills. We tend to think of contingent workers narrowly - temporary entry-level office roles via staffing agencies, gig workers driving for Uber or Lyft or delivering DoorDash and Postmates, or freelance contractors (1099 workers) operating either on their own or via a platform for freelancers like Fiverr. The skill set of freelancers has expanded considerably, from marketing roles to web development, business consulting, data analysts, and even human resources. Some of these roles and skills didn’t exist a decade ago, like AI (artificial intelligence) and UX (user experience) designers, cloud architects, blockchain and cryptocurrency analysts, among others.

The rise of ODT platforms. Freelance writers, designers and web developers have been using platforms like Fiverr and Upwork for years, but the pandemic created a surge in workers signing up on ODT (on-demand talent) platforms. Furloughed employees wanted to work while they waited for companies to reopen, unemployment numbers were high throughout the pandemic, and many essential workers left frontline industries so they could work safely from home. These platforms offer greater flexibility and agency for workers and, for employers, they make it easy to find and directly engage with gig workers who are willing to do temporary jobs, most of them remote. 

Across industries, technology and the pandemic together accelerated the speed of anticipated remote work - which previously had been considered a “perk” for direct-hire workers. Employers quickly adapted in the early days of the pandemic, many finding that their employees were more productive working from home than they had been while working in the office. In some industries, particularly those that had to downsize, restructure, or furlough employees in 2020, employers are looking to contingent hires to operate as efficiently as possible.