Why the Gig Economy is Transforming the World of Work

Published: August 1, 2018

As recently as five years ago, companies defined their success by their longevity or the size of their workforce.

That’s no longer the case.

In today’s business environment, technology-driven agility and innovation are the driving factors of business success, transforming not only how the work gets done, but also who is doing it.
Traditionally, a “flexible” workforce has been defined as temporary labor, composed of employees who worked holidays, summer vacations, or school breaks, as companies needed extra workers.

Now a “flexible” workforce means people who work how they want, where they want, when they want, and for the employers they want – as companies find they need to respond to changing market conditions faster and with more flexibility than a full-time, permanent staff might enable them to.
Welcome to the gig economy. It’s here to stay.

According to an MBO Partners report, “State of Independence in America,” more than half of American workers will be independent (or will have worked independently) within the next five years.
Shiftgig, a Chicago-based company that connects temporary workers with companies who need them, recently conducted a survey of over 2000 U.S. workers to find out who they are, why they’re participating in the gig economy, and what motivates them. Their report, “2018 Profile of a Gig Worker,” details how companies can take best advantage of the gig economy, incorporating it as a vital part of their business strategies.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the people surveyed said that they would consider engaging in gig work, and expressed interest in accepting temporary work with local businesses.

Shiftgig also reports that today’s gig workers – as well as those of the future – are well educated and eager to take advantage of the flexibility of such alternative work arrangements. Forty-five percent of them hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Forty-four percent are students, and 40 percent are retired. A little over one-third of gig workers work full time and slightly over a third more work part time.
Wade Burgess, Shiftgig CEO, said:

“These findings reveal a massive, untapped opportunity in the gig economy for people to have more flexible, hourly work options with businesses…The people looking to pick up this work have the soft skills like strong customer service orientation, active listening and social perceptiveness that will benefit businesses looking to fill hourly labor needs.”

Is Gig Work the Future of Work?

According to the study, the gig economy creates an unbiased, inclusive, and opportunistic environment for both businesses and workers alike.

Historically, companies have identified work that needs to be done, then determined whether that work is best done by a full-time worker, a temporary worker, an agency, a consultant, or an outsourcing contractor.

But new technologies have flipped that business model on its head. Individual workers now have the control to choose the roles they want to fulfill, often on an hourly basis. The gig economy provides new ways for people and work to connect beyond the traditional freelancer or independent contractor relationship.

Who ARE all these Gig Workers?

As part of its research, Shiftgig wanted to understand the demographic profile of the average gig worker. Survey questions included location, level of education, occupation, and employment status. The responses were surprising – dispelling common myths and revealing a clearer picture of the future gig worker.

First, let’s define “business-based work.” For the purpose of its report, anyone working for a local office, warehouse, restaurant, bar, or retail store is engaged in “business-based work.”
Here are some of the key findings about who the gig workers doing “business-based work” actually are.


59 percent of people who are a good fit for business-based gig work live in the suburbs. 28 percent live in cities. 13 percent live in rural areas. Most gig workers travel to and from work in their own cars, while 10 percent commute using public transportation. Only seven percent walk or ride their bikes to work.


58 percent of business-based gig workers report having a college degree. Over a third (34 percent) hold bachelor’s degrees, 11 percent hold master’s degrees, and 13 percent hold associate’s degrees. Conventional wisdom assumes that “temp workers” are those who are uneducated or unemployable. Shiftgig’s findings laid that myth to rest.

Primary Occupation

Slightly over one-fourth (26 percent) of the respondents who identified themselves as a good fit for gig work reported their primary occupation as student, homemaker, or retiree. Yet three quarters of those people hold regular jobs, and express an interest in doing gig work on the side. Students, homemakers, and retires aren’t likely associated with any kind of staffing agency, so businesses need to look at a more flexible, less traditional approach to connecting with them.

Primary Industry

Workers most compatible with gig work are those within industries willing to give them the flexibility to accept it. By far, the largest percentage (17 percent) of those employees willing to work on the side is composed of education professionals (teachers, substitute teachers, and school administrators). The second-most represented industry, at 15 percent, is the healthcare/social assistance industry (nurses, caretakers). The third largest percentage (13 percent) is those who work in retail.

The reasons are obvious. During the year, workers in education tend to have regularly scheduled breaks during summer vacation and over the holidays. Doctors, dentists, nurses, and other healthcare staff tend to work flexible schedules, shift work, and usually work less than 40 hours a week. Many retail workers already have flexible or rotating schedules, often part time. Employees like these are professionals: educated and reliable, rather than uneducated or chronically unemployable, as the “temp worker” myth would have it.

What Makes Gig Work so Attractive?

The motivation of gig workers was a key area of the Shiftgig study focus. The survey asked why workers choose gig work, what kind of gigs are they looking for, and what keeps them from pursuing gig work.
Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of survey respondents said their primary reasons for choosing gig work were financial, with 37 percent citing a need for income to support their families. Other reasons for pursuing gig work included faster access to income, saving for a big purchase or life event, and maintaining a busy and active lifestyle. The largest groups reporting gig work as their primary source of income were students and homemakers, followed by retirees, twenty percent of whom said gig work was their primary source of income.

As for reasons workers choose not to pursue business-based gig work, almost half of the workers surveyed reported a lack of free time, or a belief that gig work would not be flexible enough to accommodate their needs.

The study revealed that potential gig workers simply don’t realize that such flexible business-based work is available in their locale. Furthermore, even though they report not having enough free time to pursue gig work, the average respondent claimed an average of 20 hours of free time each week, which would allow them enough free time to pick up at least a couple of shifts every week and still permit them to maintain a flexible work schedule.

How do Employers and Gig Workers Find Each Other?

The Shiftgig study reveals that there is a large, untapped market of educated professionals who are unaware of the opportunities for gig work in their local area. And many small or growing businesses are unaware of the tsunami of transformation that the gig economy represents.
When people pursue the possibilities for gig work, they tend to look online via staffing “agencies,” or via mobile apps they can use any time.

More and more businesses are choosing to list available gigs online, as well. Gig sites and apps exist for gig work in the accounting and finance, software and technology, writing and graphic art, education, and healthcare industries, with new industries jumping into the pool every month.

Stynt is one such online and mobile platform, where more than 2,000+ healthcare facilities go to hire skilled healthcare talent and quickly solve their staffing challenges. Using state-of-the-art technology, our platform pre-screens and vets more than 25,000 healthcare professionals and matches them to available gigs in their local area.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you connect.