The New American Workplace

Courtesy WeWork

I have a love-hate relationship with the modern way of doing business.

Companies are increasingly assigning tasks to non-staff freelancers, creating a flexibility that allows them to pay only for work that needs to get done. It allows industry to sidestep the requirements to offer health insurance to these project workers, since the assignments are not long enough to qualify the workers for benefits. (And in the uniquely American  view, healthcare is in the same category as savings plans and gym discounts.)

What happens, then, is that there is an army of qualified professionals working from their homes, cafes and co-working spaces like WeWork. The pay is good but medical coverage is a scramble. And that can be a literal matter of life and death.

Freelance Isn't Free sign at Freelancers Union meeting, May 2017. CREDIT Linda P. and The Linda Life. EMAIL BEFORE USING THIS IMAGE linda_p@nyc.rr.comLeave it to the creatives to create a solution. The Freelancers Union is an association of freelance workers from a variety of fields who gather to network and gain further knowledge. The Union has a stable of lawyers to help members when clients refuse to pay their freelancers. And, Freelancers Union offers basic health insurance to members.

There are also agencies who supply temporary staff to companies as they are needed. The workers are freelancers who are employed by the agencies, which are big enough to offer benefits.

Some believe that only traditional, staff, onsite jobs are legitimate employment. Freelancers don’t punch a time clock, although I imagine some have punched a wall in solitary frustration.

  • Remote freelancers can work in their pajamas, but that may be because the workday is so long that it makes no sense to change. (I can’t think in pajamas.)
  • Remote freelancers don’t have to commute. I’m in New York City where mass transit has become unpredictable, so this is a huge benefit.
  • Remote freelancers don’t have supervisors watching them work. But we can be tougher on ourselves than any boss can ever be. Our livelihoods depend on it.

This could be your future, corporate cubicle person. Observe and learn from those of us ahead of you. Put as much as you can, at least to the company match, into your 401k. Plan your future health insurance and workspace.

That last item is kind of fun. Desk or kitchen table? Coffee shop or park with free wi-fi? Turn off the phone or just the ringer?

I do miss the camaraderie of the workplace. Long days with my coworkers made some of them a part of my life. Collaboration taught me more than any advanced degree ever could.

Their wisdom and encouragement are serving me well in this iteration of working life.

Come back for a future post: Of COURSE millennials have to job-hop!



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