With Brexit looming, is this niche within the ‘Gig Economy’ the way forward for our SMEs?
Welcome to the ‘virtual’ Shangri-La for businesses!
Why the UKs small to medium sized enterprises should critically be looking at these alternative options for their day-to-day business tasks before we finally say ‘adios’, ‘au revoir’ and ‘auf wiedersehen’ to those three in the Eurozone, plus the other 24 ways of saying ‘goodbye’ to the rest of the EU.
So, should our employers, who are facing Brexit and the expected challenges it will bring, look for ways to pro-actively reduce labour costs, general overheads and improve their efficiencies?
If they really want to prepare, then surely ‘YES’ is the answer.
Consider taking an alternative route to the labour market, one which gives SMEs a 100% guarantee of on-time and on-spec delivery of their standard and not so standard day-to-day business tasks. It comes with the added bonus that if the supplier doesn’t deliver, you don’t pay, to which I would add, from my own experience, ‘non delivery’ is incredibly rare.
Before we talk about what these alternative routes are, I would like to pose some questions. Firstly is your standard 9 to 5-ish worker becoming a thing of the past? And secondly, is the need for a multi-functional full-time workforce who are generally spending a large percentage of their working day doing things other than their job (I’ll come back to that statement in a moment) becoming obsolete? Finally, do we really need so many full-time employees? Controversial questions I know!
Whilst the UK economy may be currently looking rosy with rising wages and low unemployment, that is all about to change for those SMEs who are heavily linked to the EU, courtesy of a referendum held a little over 3 years ago. Whether you’re a Remainer or a Brexiteer it’s going to happen, despite some who are trying their hardest to block it at every opportunity, our Boris is going to deliver.
The nature of the game will change and all indicators suggest an initial downturn which is completely understandable while we seek trade elsewhere, go through a measure of uncertainty and a period of ‘woe is me’ delirium passes. Businesses will definitely have to think differently if they want to ride the Brexit wave and survive. Pro-active cost reduction should always be their first port of call.
What is the future for the SME workplace?
My belief is that the SME workplace will change dramatically over the next 5 years or sooner, as Brexit speeds the process up. I foresee a substantial decline in demand for small to medium sized office space, SME employee numbers dropping by at least twenty five percent across the board, a large reduction in commuting, which will be a plus for climate change, the term ‘employer’ being increasingly replaced by ‘contractor’ and a big reduction in the medium sized business recruitment role (agencies and alike).
But of course, only time will tell if my predications are accurate.
So, who are these people who are going to change the SME landscape?
There is a relatively new and rapidly growing technologically driven type of self-employment, namely freelance ‘niche’ remote workers, who offer their services on websites such as UPWORK.com, peopleperhour.com, Freelancer.com and fiverr.com.
These ever-growing portals can be the SMEs future labour pool. And the good news for those ardent EU remainers who still want to have access to workers across Europe is that you can. Yes, these workers may live and work in any of the EU countries or indeed in any other nation on the globe, and work alongside our own freelancers in the UK. The good news is that nothing will change after Brexit because the terms and conditions of using these sites will still be the same with no visas, no tariffs and no fluctuating prices.
And why should we embrace this new approach to labour?
Ask yourself this. Would you rather have one person who is good at maybe 40% of the tasks they perform and pretty mediocre at the rest, who works at only 30% of their capacity when actually being productive (stats in a moment, I promise) or, would you rather be able to pick someone for a specific task from a multitude of people who are 100% good at one or two specific tasks, as and when you need something done so that it will be completed, quickly, accurately and on-time? And of course you only pay them WHEN they deliver.
The current reality of our workplaces (the stats)
Now, before anybody starts reaching for their pitchforks and flaming torches to hunt me down for this analysis of the UKs workforce, let’s firstly look at the reality of an average employees working day. Most full-time employees work an 8 hour day of which roughly 4 hours are taken up with bedding in on arrival, lunch, tea and toilet breaks, plus net surfing that has nothing to do with work, reading personal emails (30 – 60 times a day on average), checking social media, water-cooler chats and cigarette breaks for those who still indulge.
A further hour is wasted reading unnecessary work-related emails with 50 being the average number of times an employee checks their mail every day. They also have to deal with unwanted and most definitely time wasting internal and external phone calls, plus other unnecessary interruptions. At least another hour each day vanishes into thin air consumed by unnecessary meetings at which 80% of the people there feeling that they did not need to be. In many cases a simple email would have sufficed. All these stats above are not just my figures from my experience as a consultant but from highly respected industry experts Google it!
So that’s 6 hours of an average 8 hour working day lost, and let’s not forget paid for! A quick calculation shows that almost 75% of an employee’s and employer’s time is wasted. It’s not looking good is it?
We then have to ask ourselves if in the remaining 2 hours people are working to their maximum capacity. If you look at the Pareto’s principle 80%, of all productivity comes from only 20% of the workforce, so that probably answers that question.
So, what do these freelancer websites offer?
They offer virtually every type of work you could possibly imagine and all for an incredibly competitive fixed price which can be, literally, as low as only £5 per task or from £6 per hour hence the ‘fiverr’ and peopleperhour branding. This work would all be delivered within a specified and very fast time frame, typically anywhere between 24 hours, or even less, and five days, depending on the type of task and availability of the freelancer. And remember, if a particular one is not available there are dozens of others to choose from.
To give you an idea, you can get a basic business plan, not to be confused with a strategic plan, drawn up in five days for just £350, your database cleaned and updated in two days from £20, your website issues fixed from around £9 per
hour, admin work for £8 per hour, 10 hours of in-depth research for £60 and someone to manage your social media for 30 days for £75.
Check them out first!
Before you even consider engaging one of these remote workers, you have the luxury of assessing their work via online portfolios, read their feedback and see their ratings from other people who have hired them before. You then compare them to dozens more offering the same service. Ultimately you can pick the best from a very large and eager bunch. There are also recommendations from the site owners themselves ‘introducing our gold star or five star freelancer’, for example,
And the beauty of it is that not only is it inexpensive, every minute you engage a person on these sites for is maximised because if they don’t deliver on time and exactly to your specification, you are not obligated to release payment from the escrow holding account! You can’t lose.
In addition to all of the above the hirer doesn’t have to worry about the following:
Expensive recruitment and onboarding costs
Training and development
National insurance/PAYE coming out of your hard-earned profits
Health and safety issues to worry about (they all insure themselves)
Large expensive offices to buy/rent and maintain (the majority of freelancers work from their own homes)
No pensions to pay and pension pots to worry about
Disputes and tribunals
Sickness to cover for with its associated loss of productivity, as well as sick payments to make
No office, departmental clashes or employee conflict to deal with
No underperformance issues to manage
Not having to deal with employee’s personal issues brought into the workplace
No 9 to 5.30 schedule to work to (most freelancers work evenings and weekends)
As most managers that I work with have to spend on average 70% of their working day dealing with all the above instead of being able to focus on and develop their businesses, it really is starting to look like a ‘no brainer’ alternative.
From my own experience and that of my friends and colleagues, I can truly say that the freelancers on these sites tend to be really nice and easy people to work with. I’ve been using them for years and have many that I continue to use on a regular basis. They are professional and truly understand the value of delivering a service that goes above and beyond that of their competitors on the same site(s), and with global coverage you also benefit from different cultures, ideas and ways of doing things.
The sites themselves take between 2.5% and 20% from the freelancers’ fee on the value of each piece of work. For the buyer the service is free, although with some credit cards you pay a small transaction fee. Bank transfers are generally free. You can pay extra for urgent jobs or for posting a featured project, but in my experience, you tend to get quick responses anyway. Finally, you can also include NDA’s for your more sensitive work.
Ultimately the individuals on these platforms are self-motivated and self-disciplined, doing what makes them happy.
Because in the words of ‘Nike” they ‘Just do it’, simply because their ‘attitude’ is right! And if they don’t have the right attitude they get poor reviews and don’t last five minutes, and ultimately will not earn a living, it’s as simple as that!
To anybody says, ‘this is slave labour, or ‘we are going back to the dark ages where these individuals have no protection’, I would say that these people happily choose to work this way. They can decide what work they take or don’t, or even who they work with, they have flexibility in their lives to have families, to take and pick up their children from school, get out of bed when they want, holiday when they want and don’t waste hours of their lives commuting.
It’s Shangri La for them to!
PHILIP PETERS COPYRIGHT 2019
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