Traditional workforce arrangements have undergone drastic changes over the past decade or two, making Dolly Parton’s hit song “9 to 5” feel like more of a novelty in this day and age. An increasing number of companies are hiring both freelance workers and regular employees, a move that can present challenges for managers when it comes to supervising.
Balancing Traditional Staff with Gig Workers
Independent contractors, often referred to as freelancers or gig workers, enjoy considerably more freedom and flexibility than their counterparts who are full-time employees. They often work remotely, may be allowed to skip meetings, are rarely subject to traditional performance reviews, and might not be bound by the same dress code as regular staff. Not surprisingly, these things can breed resentment in those employees who must abide by a stricter set of rules—especially in situations where they do come face-to-face with one another.
Learning to deal with these situations is imperative. Gig work won’t be disappearing any time soon; once the domain of creative professionals such as writers and designers, it is becoming increasingly common in industries as varied as insurance, education, and…yes…even health care.
From a business standpoint, it’s easy to see the appeal in working with freelancers: it all boils down to cost savings. Employers don’t have to offer these workers traditional benefits like health insurance, PTO and sick time, and disability pay; aren’t on the hook for Social Security and Medicare subsidies; and don’t have matching funds for 401(k) and other retirement plans. Yet, even as the popularity of hiring gig workers is on the rise, managing them is a gray area for many employers.
There are simply different guidelines when you’re dealing with independent contractors. The relationship is more straightforward: when they perform to expectations, you continue to utilize their services. Unhappy with their performance? Once the contract is over, it’s unlikely you’ll work with them again. There is little opportunity to provide coaching or mentoring; due to the nature of their work, freelancers thrive on autonomy anyway. You’re best off giving them the flexibility they crave…as long as they are producing good work.
Some degree of resentment from regular employees is inevitable. You can proactively discourage this by promoting a strong work-life balance. Provide your staff with as much flexibility as possible, whether that involves scheduling or time off for appointments. Offer incentives that won’t benefit independent contractors, such as training and enrichment opportunities, and make it a point to schedule onsite activities such as potlucks or lunches. When they know they are valued, regular employees are less likely to harbor ill will toward colleagues who aren’t full-time staff members.