We consider the big issues in the world of work, assisted by cutting edge new research. This week: free tea and coffee, the rise (or not) of the freelancer and the need to sharpen up our body language as we return to that hitherto unexplored backwater, the office.
Freelancers are ‘critical for competitive advantage’
Personnel Today was intrigued to learn this week that the sourcing of business talent has become so “disrupted” – what with Covid, the Great Resignation (but perhaps not the ‘great’ resignation many are waiting for given the latest news), war, pestilence, the football transfer window – that freelance workers are being recruited to fill ever-growing numbers of vacancies. Any study of recent employment tribunal cases involving “false self-employment” may trigger alarm at the notion of a huge expansion of freelance activity.
According to a survey by Worksome, nearly half (45%) of freelancers across the UK and US saw an increased demand. Half (53%) said they were earning more as a freelance than they did as a permanent employee – although whether that had factored in the lack of benefits and payments to accountants was unknown. About 14% of those surveyed claimed the Great Resignation had directly led them to becoming a freelancer.
Mathias Linnemann, COO and co-founder, Worksome said the research “proves that the freelance workforce is critical to secure competitive advantages for future-looking companies. However, more can still be done to better utilise the skills of freelance workers while new technology can help overcome traditional pain points like finding the right job, communicating with clients and fair pricing.”
But while, as Linnemann said, the research represented “positive news from the freelance community in terms of job satisfaction and remuneration” there has to be a question mark hanging over the wider promotion of freelance activities as new legislation attempting to batten down the hatches on bogus self-employment enters the House of Commons and a series of tribunal cases reveals that many individuals in dispute with firms were actually employed.
New HR trends
In case you’re wondering, Worksome is a tech platform connecting businesses with freelancers and the survey was of 709 freelancers signed up to its platform. Readers can draw their own conclusions about that, but the findings that job flexibility and work-life balance (78%) are the most important motivators for freelance workers – 8% higher than money (70%) – and that 72% of freelancers are now happier than when in full-time employment, are undeniably striking.
Aim for the stomach?
Should the corporate world be concerned about all its employees deciding to go freelance? What further incentives can they provide now that a significant proportion of people are increasingly working where and when they want? New research suggests they aim for the stomach. According to workspace facilitator Reef App, food and drink make up five out of 10 of the must-have top perks for office workers.
Free tea and coffee, fruit, snacks and breakfast items are all apparently top reasons why people would want to work for a company. And incredibly, only flexible hours and hybrid working beat free tea and coffee as lures with a whopping 35% favouring a free hot beverage over the freedom to work at home.
Access to mental health support barely snuck into the top 10, and was beaten by the likes of “free breakfast items” “Friday drinks hour” and free fruit. The lesson that Personnel Today takes from this is that the mental health benefits of a cuppa should never be underrated – particularly if you haven’t paid for it. Or perhaps, as business consultancy Gartner states, managers are mistaken if they believe their highest performers are usually in the office.
Body confidence in the office
For freelancers and replete office-based employees, our absences from shared workplaces may lead to a sense of strangeness when all back together again in the coming weeks. Confidence could be an issue, research from contact lens supplier Lenstore tells us. And what situations in the office are the most nerve-racking? Presenting and asking for a pay rise, apparently. No surprises there.
Honigman doesn’t address what would happen if everyone adopted broad steps and large sweeping gestures, however. Presumably we’d need larger offices for one thing”
But what Personnel Today was anxious to find out about was how to use “impactful body language to get what you want in the workplace”. According to body language expert Inbaal Honigman, 55% of our communication is non-verbal (at Personnel Today this is more like 100%) and “broad steps, large sweeping gestures and a wide smile are necessary to convince colleagues” that one is eager to succeed in the workplace.
Honigman doesn’t address what would happen if everyone adopted broad steps and large sweeping gestures, however. Presumably we’d need larger offices for one thing. And then how would we differentiate those most eager to succeed?
Kirsty Hulse, founder of Roar! Training chips in at this point: “We have to allow for a bit of difference, but I also believe that we all know what it looks like and feels like to be confident.”
For Honigman, it’s best to drop the wide smile when asking for a pay rise. Presumably the wide smile at this point hasn’t become so ingrained the muscles will still respond to a sudden switch to seriousness. “A soft face indicates a submissive personality, so make sure you maintain a neutral face, a strong, straight posture and steady eye contact,” she says.
Personnel Today suspects freelancers, not being employed (unless a tribunal decides otherwise), will not be subject to these strictures and will be able to slouch around as moodily as they wish in the knowledge that donning a permanent wide smile might be deemed a characteristic of false self-employment. They might have to pay for their tea and coffee though.