Look on any job site and you'll see that New Zealand employers are increasingly looking for contractors instead of full-time employees.
That trend mirrors those in North America where contractors (or "gig workers") will make up approximately 43 per cent of the labour force by 2020.
"Hiring flexible workers enables businesses to be just that — they can quickly and easily scale up during a busy period or find replacements when key staff are on leave," says Katherine Swan, country director, Randstad NZ.
"The pool and experience of 'giggers' has also increased to the extent that most employers no longer need to spend days inducting temporary workers — most hit the ground running, saving businesses time and money in training. The overheads for contractors are also fewer than permanent employees which can be appealing to many businesses."
The trade-off for the higher pay rate most contractors enjoy is no sick-leave or paid annual holidays. They are also responsible for paying their own income tax, GST (if registered), KiwiSaver, ACC, professional fees and insurances including often professional indemnity and business expenses such as travel and mobile phone costs.
"It all adds up," says Swan, "and as with all workers, taking a holiday is essential for well-being. Contractors, however, aren't covered by most employment-related laws as with permanent employees. If contractors feel they need to manage their finances better, they can look to introduce a budget approach or seek financial advice to ensure they put adequate money aside for during the year for expenses but also a good break."
Though contractors can be based in the office, many work from home, and the desire for flexible working arrangements is also being pushed for by full-time employees and welcomed by many employers.
"Central to flexible working for both parties — the employee and the employer — is trust and communication. It's important to have agreement from the start around work expectations including priorities and deliverables. Being accessible, regardless of location, is also important as is regular meetings and reviews.
"Remote workers want to know they are trusted and supported. Employers want to know employees will deliver. But not all employers want to work remotely full-time. Often, it's a day a week, once a fortnight or just starting earlier to avoid the traffic. Work is becoming more employee-centric. It can cause confusion for those not sure when someone is in or not, but more people are highlighting in their email signature the days they work or forwarding their landline to their mobile to make them easier to contact.
"The very nature of flexible working is being just that — it may take a little while to settle into for both parties — as with any change — but the overall benefits for both parties are substantial."
And Swan has some tips for those who do find themselves working from home.
"Having a regular routine is important if you're working remotely or from home. Start by getting up at the same time, getting dressed as if you were heading into the office, and enjoying breakfast before getting online. Set aside a suitable workspace if you can. If you have room, create an office space — perhaps in a spare room, or corner of the lounge. And try to make it ergonomic if possible.
"Health and safety still apply when working at home. And take breaks as you would in the office.
"Get outside over lunch or get any home chores prying on your mind out of the way. Just avoid distractions and time-wasters like TV."