I’ve been working on a new business for a while now – it’s just birthing as I write this (www.3desk.com). Here’s the first blog post, which explains why and hopefully ties back to simplicity:
It’s rather strange that in the interconnected, multicultural, permeable world in which we live, most companies have permanent employees and most people a job with a single company.
Employees tend to work full-time – often in a single location, with a set team usually chosen by others and salary that mostly changes yearly and incrementally. The corporate ‘culture’ is often dictated, projects pre-determined, set holiday allowances given and rules and regulations created to enable the managers to manage.
Those lucky enough to be able to choose their employers tend to make their decisions on the basis of a combination of factors that make certain organisations more attractive than others.
Yet employees still work for ‘a’ company with all of its quirks and features. People can spend years in atmospheres which, left to their own devices, they would never have designed themselves. There is often a disconnection between someone’s desires and what they are forced to accept and yet many of us spend most of our waking hours within this system.
Savvy investors would never invest all their savings into one stock and yet the norm is to work for one company.
Try to get a mortgage as a successful freelancer with multiple sources of revenue and it’s highly likely that you’ll find the bank less willing to lend you money than if you’re employed by one company. Which, given you’ve got more sources of income, surely is less risky?
People are either in, or they’re out. Employed or unemployed.
At least that’s how it’s been and is… mostly.
Given the recession, technological advances and mobility, things are changing. A recent article stated that as many as 35% of the US workforce will be freelancing in the next 10 years.
I’ve just picked up a book by Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman, called ‘The Start Up of You‘. It’s a manifesto to self-reliance and becoming more entrepreneurial about work as more and more of us turn to ‘portfolio’ careers.
In the ‘further reading’ section of the book, ‘Free Agent Nation‘ is the first book mentioned – a book ahead of its time, which promotes being a ‘free agent’, another way of describing a freelancer, or contractor.
The employment landscape is shifting. With online freelance marketplaces, like Elance and Odesk, more and more people are able to work remotely, choosing their projects.
However, there are many more freelancers who work face-to-face across the globe, from contractors on building sites to those working for the UN in refugee camps, to designers of high-end technology.
At 3Desk, we believe that the future of work will be freer, more flexible. People will be ‘agents’ rather than employees. We’d love for people to be able to have more choice.
Imagine a liquid market for talent, in which someone knows their value. A market in which people choose who they work for, when they work and for how much.
Our dream is that in 20 years, the Harvard MBA graduation class will predominantly choose to freelance because of the advantages that this brings – like taking time off when they want to, work with people they liked, setting their terms or choosing a 3-day week to spend time with their kids because they can earn enough that way.
Sure, there are advantages to the safety net that a company provides and the hassle that is removed through collecting people to together for a singular goal. We’re not extolling the removal of organizations, but instead making them more porous.
Imagine employers being able to choose the talent they need as and when they need it. Instead of bringing in a big consulting firm to work on a project, what if they were able to select the best 12 people in the market, who’ve worked together before on other projects and have chosen one another. Imagine hiring them directly for their skills, without having to pay for the centre-of-town offices, marble receptions and other costs associated with creating a ‘consulting brand’, which really is a way of trying to collect the greatest talent ‘within’ a business, because that’s ‘how it’s done’.
Imagine if the unemployed could find pieces of work in their neighbourhoods, to help bring in small pieces of income and reduce the feeling that a full-time job is the only way.
Although a long way off, that’s why we started 3Desk - because we believe that both employers and employees want more security AND more flexibility – and it is only through creating a liquid marketplace, where people understand their true value, that they are able to work the way they want to.
It’s early days, but in time we’d love to try to help people feel that being an independent agent had all of the benefits of a full-time job, with less of the negatives – as well as reducing the loneliness, or problems that being an independent currently causes – from pensions and benefits, to ensuring people feel part of something bigger than themselves.