No issue is more polarising than the gig economy.

In my work, I am lucky enough to connect with different people every day. Different sectors, different companies, different career stages, different lived experiences.

And given I am not a huge fan of small talk (one mention of the weather and I automatically turn my brain off), I have two questions I use to start a decent conversation.

1) What makes you happiest.

Yep I am a junkie for this stuff- I love seeing the visceral rush of joy that comes from talking about the things you love.

 2) What are you thinking about most when it comes to work?

Responses here are mixed – but are largely focussed around a few similar themes (the future of work, robotics/AI/automation, 4 day working weeks, universal wages etc).

What I find intriguing, are the starkly different reactions to the ‘same’ issues.  It seems the folks I speak to are either;

  1. a) Running, full pelt, with a wide smile, towards what they consider will be a different and significantly better future for work;

or;

  1. b) are as nervous as hell about the ‘death’ of the things they value most at work, and are shuffling (if even moving at all), with extreme caution, towards the ‘future’.

No issue is more polarising than the ‘Gig Economy’, which is just another way of saying the rise of people leading a career full of short term, contract and/or freelance work – instead of the traditional model of full time, permanent employment. For clarity – this is not about ‘Uber driving’ (I lovingly see this work as more of a ‘side hustle’ than a full ‘career’).

The kicker is that there appears to be a sense of extreme urgency around this issue, and a ‘need’ to pick a side quickly as the ‘gig economy is taking over’ (the subtext being that it is ‘coming for you’, and you better be ready!).

This is where our ‘friend’ the media come in and start throwing in stories of the 22 year old portfolio career billionaire juggernaut, or poor Aunt Beryl, the Aussie Battler, who now needs to work at the Library, and a Call Centre, and deliver pamphlets, just to make ends meet.

The end result of this leaves us in a bit of a muddle – many of us are not really sure how we feel about the gig economy, and what it may mean for us. We just know it’s one of those things you ‘ought to’ have a view on, and potentially default to an opinion that we have not yet fully explored or challenged.

So lets’ circuit break this right now.

The gig economy, is neither wholly bad, or wholly good.

At its best, it enables people to do the work they love, and are most passionate about, in a flexible way aligned to what they want in their life.

At its worst, it could leave people poor, struggling to pay their bills, or get a mortgage, and even potentially beholden to the whim of ‘bad bosses’ who can essentially hire and fire us at will. This is logically where new laws will come in and protect vulnerable workers Like Aunt Beryl. Our friends in the UK are already pioneering this legal ground.

And in between, the gig economy is a different and ‘new’ option for working that we need to pioneer together to get right.

And the sense that it is ‘looming’ around every street corner in Australia…

Come on mate. Settle.

Here are some findings from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Future of Work in Australia report, released in April 2018;

  • Less than 1 in 10 workers in Australia currently hold more than 1 job.
  • In the last ten years, around 8% of employed individuals have held multiple jobs, and this number has changed very little over time.
  • There is no compelling data that shows significant growth of the ‘gig’ sector in the short to medium term.

Where am I leaving you on this one?

The gig economy is here, and its something that holds a lot of potential and needs ongoing consideration. But we have time to be thoughtful on this – and we should absolutely take this time to make sure this ‘new way of working’ we are actively creating, works for all of us.

So lean in. Have a say.

Be part of creating something better for the future.

And if we do this well – perhaps the answer to my two questions about what makes you happiest, and what you think about when it comes to work – may even come together.

Now that would be cool.