Frist, I need to admit, I hate office life, 9-5 routines, office politics, stuck at a desk all day. I hate it.
At 19, I had an internship working as a Marketing Assistant in one of the top travel agencies in Vietnam. After only a month, I found myself struggling to get out of bed every morning, then came half an hour commute through massive traffic jams in Hanoi rush hours. I consumed a considerable amount of coffee every day to keep my brain and mind awake because I felt so dull and tired sitting at a desk staring at the screen all day. I quit soon after that and never wish to do office jobs again.
Since then I’ve had many more experiences working for business and NGOs in different settings and at the same time working freelance. Right now I am a full-time freelancer and this post is my view on the major differences between freelance life and office life and the future of work.
1. Freedom and flexibility
This is pretty obvious, anyone can see this. Being a freelancer allows me to have a very flexible schedule and the freedom to work whenever and wherever I want. As a night owl, this really works perfectly for me. During the day, I spend time on my personal projects and matters and I work in the evening till late night when I am most focused and productive.
Working freelance also means anywhere can be my ‘office’: at home, at a cafe or co-working space… I can also travel and still work since all I need is my laptop and an Internet connection.
However, it is important to note that some office jobs allow you to have flexible schedule and some freelance jobs require you to work certain hours or be in certain timezone. In fact, many companies now are starting to realize that giving their employees more freedom and flexibility actually increases work performance. Thus there are more and more companies adopting this flexible schedule policy.
2. Social interactions
The second difference between freelance work and office work is about social interactions. If you work in an office, every day you get to meet your coworkers and have human interactions. And of course there’s office gossip and politics involved but it’s part of office life and some people actually enjoy it.
If you are a freelancer, you mostly work alone, the only relationship you have pretty much is with your laptop :) Of course, you still collaborate with other people but they most likely are freelancers themselves and are based in a different region. The only communication and interaction you have are via Skype, email and other online platforms.
For me, I am more like an introvert or socially exclusive as I often call it, I enjoy spending time with certain types of people. If I spend time with people I don’t enjoy being around, I feel really drained. So being a freelancer actually gives me the advantage to socialize whenever I want to and be around people I want to be around. Plus I don’t need to deal with office politics which I don’t enjoy.
Being a freelancer also means I get to work with people from around the world. Sometimes I only work with them once and then we move on to different projects. But there have been people that I have formed great friendships with without having met them once.
However, some people enjoy working with co-workers in an office, going to have drinks after work, forming relationships close to home. Again this is a personal preference and it all depends on your lifestyle and personalities.
3. Productivity and concentration
I mentioned above that giving employees more flexibility and freedom actually improves work performance and productivity. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Being a freelancer requires self-discipline as you can get easily distracted. Freelancers also tend to work on multiple projects at once hence you need to have great organization and prioritization skills to be on top of everything and meet deadlines.
To some people, working in an office with colleagues gives them motivation and it keeps them creative to brainstorm with other people. Or simply even the fact that they have a supervisor will keep them more motivated. Working freelance means you are your own boss and you are responsible for your own work progress, productivity, and income. The more you work, the more you’ll earn. The higher your work quality, the higher you’ll get paid.
Nevertheless, whether you work in an office or work freelance, you still need to have certain organizational and management skills to manage your work and schedule effectively. It just depends on your type of work and working style that you will need to use them to a different extent.
The future of work
Now in the year 2017, millennials already account for nearly 50% of the workforce according to PwC report. And we millennials are weirdos, we refuse to follow a traditional career path and tedious 9-to-5 routines. It is not hard to see the quickly rising trend of digital nomad lifestyle, especially among youngsters. Millions of people worldwide right now are adopting this lifestyle, working remotely, running their businesses remotely and traveling the world.
It might seem very hard to understand to Baby Boomers who prefer the security and comfort of stable office jobs. But millennials is the future and they are changing the way we work considerably and thus they are gradually shaping the future of work.
In an article on World Economic Forum written by the CEO of Upwork, the author pointed out a very possible future that by 2030, we’ll all be our own boss. Traditional careers are on the decline and people are demanding more flexibility and freedom. At the same time companies now need to rethink and restructure their workplace culture to catch up with the fast changing world that millennials are taking over.
The idea that you study and have a career at one company is gone. You need to renew your skills every five years.
Stephane Kasriel, CEO, Upwork
There is a term that appeared recently and has become more trendy, gig economy, which is “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs.”
I think it is very hard to say if this will be the future of workplace as each country is different with different policies and work cultures. Personally, I think some countries aren’t ready for it. But I do think gig economy is an interesting vision for the future.
One thing I know for sure is that the future of work will be very different from traditional 9-to-5 careers and it is full of possibilities. It will be more competitive in the workforce and those who fail to constantly learn, improve and renew their skills and knowledge will fall behind.