Flexible work arrangements are increasingly becoming more acceptable in Gulf countries, particularly in the UAE where the government has become more considerate to part-time work by expatriates.
Work permits, visa arrangements and other legalities are well in place, which makes it easier for some individuals to take advantage of opportunities.
This kind of development reflects the openness of the UAE to the changing landscape in work cultures. Freelancing jobs, which have become a global phenomenon, take up at least 35 per cent of the workforce in the US and are predicted to reach up to 43 per cent by 2020. In Europe, it has grown from 6.2 million in 2004 to 8.9 million in 2013, making it one of the fastest growing segments within the EU labour sector.
Market research has also shown that, globally, freelancers get paid $19 (Dh69.7) as the average hourly rate, with India and Bangladesh among the leading suppliers for online work. Amidst all this, freelancing did not happen by chance.
The growth of the internet and its accessibility led to the concept of tele-commuting or work-from-home arrangements in the late ‘90s, with executives choosing to set up a home-office environment. The ongoing digital revolution continues to support this trend and many professionals have taken advantage of the idea of working from anywhere – be at the beach or at a cafe.
This trend is not going away, especially as the young and the talented prefer a work-life balance that allows them to enjoy the freedom of working at their own pace and space. Global businesses are open to these developments and some such as US-based Accenture have learned to adapt to these fast-changing work habits by incorporating options for their employees and they benefit from flexible work schedules, part-time arrangements, or job-sharing schemes.
There are opportunities that even small and medium enterprises can take advantage of in the freelance economy to keep the business more agile when it comes to getting support in some of its business needs. The creative industry, for example, is among the most competitive and agile where global workers offer their skills in web designing, communications and writing, marketing, blogging, architectural design, among others.
As a result, business models will have to accommodate these changes if companies aim to remain on top of their games. There is, essentially, a reshaping of work cultures that will impact the future of employment. Many support structures in businesses may require rethinking on whether to hire full-time staff or outsource it for a certain workload.
However, if there is one reality that the freelancing world must face, it is the credibility of one’s reputation. Although outsourcing of jobs is more competitive, the need for credibility and of the work produced remain a key factor that businesses need to consider before they spend on online freelancers — no matter how tight their budget is. After all, they need to secure their deliverables.
Freelancers also need to establish their reputation to ensure marketability. Trust is essential. It is basic no matter what platform is used — online or offline — in any business relationship.
— Liana Abou Zaki is Chief Talent Officer at Utalenta.com.