The GIG Economy is Impacting the Built Environment

The emerging gig economy is transforming the way project teams work and it’s here to stay.  Often referred to as contract staffing, temporary resources or simply consulting, the gig economy (borrowing its name from the music industry’s nickname for an engagement) is the project-based employment model in which independent talent is in control of their work style, schedule and capacity.

Over the years, we’ve often admired the ways in which the commercial real estate and interiors sector deployed project-specific resources for their precise expertise, knowledge and credentials. These individuals offer unique skills to a project and easily move onto the next, usually within a geographic region or specific company.  Design, architecture, project management and marketing talent resources have been “deployed” as gig team members for decades, yet now the barriers have come down even further, allowing these resources to do the work they want, on projects they choose, from anywhere they prefer.

We see an increase in project-based gig opportunities within workplace strategy, smart building integration, and building technology.  Project-specific work teams and opportunities are no longer limited to just designers, architects, project managers and consultants at designated office spaces.  End-user customers/building owners, general contractors, furniture dealers, real estate service operation and design firms no longer need to maintain a waiting staff of full-time employed team members to successfully deliver a project.  Teams are virtual and efficient – innovating with tools that eliminate traditional challenges like time zones, visual engagement and integrated tech tools.

Research from Harvard Business Review shows continued increases in gig workforce resources with 36% of project teams will be assigned a gig resource within the next year and this number is rising.  We know designers, marketing experts and project managers are in such high demand that several of our clients have outsourced client deliverables to offshore resources to deliver project plans and specifications quickly.  Other clients have secured out of state talent resources since there are no longer boundaries for the talent and businesses who need their expertise.

Gig deployed talent is similar to outsourcing, except the gig team member becomes fully integrated within the project scope of work and represents the organization as a designated member of the team.

A gig project may represent a portion of a designer, PM or marketing guru’s income.  When a gig resource aggregates projects with different clients or companies, their cumulative earnings can be higher than that of full-time employment.  Others leverage short-term gigs as a way to earn a part-time or supplemental income. It works both ways, with designers specifically seeking flexible, short-term working arrangements and firms seeking to hire temporary contract workers in lieu of full-time employees.

It’s common for full-time employees seeking supplemental income accept gigs in the evenings or on weekends.  By doing so, designers, project managers, and AEC marketing experts take control of their career trajectory by engaging in challenging projects and building an impressive resume, enabling them to secure higher-level and better-paying even full-time positions. Many opt to remain part of a gig workforce because of its flexibility and earnings potential.

The rise of the independent workforce profits not only workers but also companies who can reap the cost savings of enlisting short-term help to accommodate demand without the administrative costs of hiring full-time staff. Companies hiring deployed resources save on such costs as contributions to retirement savings accounts, and group health insurance coverage.

Owner end-users, A&D firms or furniture dealers benefit by leveraging design and project management talent for specific, short-term projects who might otherwise be too costly to hire or maintain as a full-time employee. For example, a growing startup may not have capital to fund a full-time real estate manager or designer salary, but a three-month consulting engagement may be within budget.

By the end of 2020. at least 43 percent of the national workforce will consist of independent contractors.  Gig projects can provide job security. This may seem counter-intuitive, yet it aligns with the idea that a professional shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket. As an independent resource, having your position downsized doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly lost your sole income.

In summary, while the generation of the gold watch and a pension may be waning, the gig economy transformation is rapidly creating new opportunities to meet the needs of both talent and the organizations who need them.