Remote working or working from home has come to be accepted as a norm with the advent of the global pandemic as we ushered into 2020. The organisations across the world, the private and public institutions, the educational institutions not sparing either, adopted one philosophy: " What could be done from home, should be done from home."  But is remote working an unheard entity before the pandemic- or rather will it be done away with after the pandemic (hoping we get there sooner rather than later): NO!

"Horses for Courses" is a phrase that I was not entirely ignorant of, but it certainly assumed a new dimension while on a casual visit to my friend's house. This was well in 2015 and the global pandemic was something that we could not envisage.

Richa, my friend from college, was always the go-getter girl who was in control of her life. Being confined to her house- in the seventh month of her pregnancy-and on the advice of her Doctor, was certainly not the ideal situation that I could imagine her to be in.

"My physician has advised me against travelling, and since my office was a good twenty kilometres away, accompanied by the menacing traffic and bumpy road, I quitted my job two months ago," Richa had disclosed to me over the phone.

As we sat down that day to unearth stories for discussion, I did pop up the uncomfortable question: "So how do you kill your time now?"

"Well, I am even busier," she quipped: her eyes lit up as she said that.

"I work online, I work from home," she continued.

This was around a decade ago, but probably was my first introduction to new work culture or rather a new definition of work engagement.

"So, what sort of work you do?"-I persisted.

"I get the option to choose my nature of work, I pick up those which catches my fancy," she replied.

That sounded a bit implausible – exciting, nevertheless.

"Technical, non-technical, writing – creative, informative, and even data entry stuff which does not require any particular skill set," she said.

"You get to choose the nature of the work you want to do, and the amount of work also?" I asked with a voice tinged with excitement.

"Yes, I get paid exactly for my nature and quantity of work," she replied with a smile.

Welcome to the 'gig' culture!

My friend had inadvertently introduced me to the 'gig' work culture. The term 'gig' would mean a small burst of activity, music or work that sounds exciting but short-lived. Richa- and many alike- is now a part of the 'gig' way of working. You are 'engaged' if you have work or multiple assignments in your hand and as soon as you are free- or relatively free- you make yourself available to take up additional assignments.

"You could go the full 'gig' way, or chose to keep your traditional job, and do a 'gig' as and when it suits you," my colleague from the office said when the culture had gained momentum.

How does it work?

The model thrives on having the job seeker and job provider in the same platform, each getting the opportunity to select from a larger online pool. The employers get to employ the person whom they might deem to be fit to accomplish their tasks and make the best bargain through the bidding system. The prospective worker also gets to take up nature and amount of work that he or she believes to best suit his or her lifestyle.

The job seekers build on their reputation with feedback from the previous employer. The employers become attractive to the future job applicant with feedback from the 'gig' workforce who happened to take up their assignments.

What works better than the 'traditional' office-going job?

  1. The employer need not provide a workstation to the potential employees- cost saving!
  2. The employees need not adhere to any office decorum; as soon as he or she is connected, it is all set to go!
  3. The job-seekers save the travelling time and the hassle to be in proper office attire.
  4. Employee: you are your boss! No rude managers breathing down your neck or nagging you to work his way or at his pace. You decide what and how much to work. "None to discipline you, but self-discipline holds the key," my friend Richa had said.
  5. Both job seekers and job providers get a bigger pool to select from.
  6. A perfect atmosphere for the creatives- you can choose to work your way and even have the occasional privilege to make mistakes!

All under one umbrella: even the college student who works as a delivery boy to support his living, or a future novelist who might sometimes prefer to drive for a car rental organisation to augment his income- all are part of the 'gig cloud'.

What is contentious:

  1. The rationality of pay – are you getting paid enough? Or someone else is getting better compensated for the same nature and amount of work- well, this might be a grey area here.
  2. No paid leaves, no bonus, no free lunch – you get paid only and only for the assignment.
  3. Fraudulent Employers- if proper background checks are not done, or the feedback of the employers is not reviewed, you might become a victim of 'cheat' employer. Your work and time are not paid or rewarded. But such 'employers' are most likely to be black-listed or removed from the 'cloud'.
  4. Unresponsive or uninterested employees- sometimes the employers might encounter a not so serious worker who is unresponsive to the employer and does not adhere to the timelines or meet the expected standards. Appropriate feedback for such a workforce might help him or her to improve in the future.

Is it here to stay?

Yes, it is. At least that is what the statistical reports would suggest. It is an ever encompassing 'cloud' across the world. Flexibility and remote working being the key, the benefits are too great to be ignored and the traditional job market could well be shadowed by the 'gig' cloud.

You could win a lifetime award for your musical accomplishment, but a well-received 'gig' still probably excites you more!


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