The transformation of the way we work has, largely, already begun. According to the Nasdaq, freelance work is projected to make up 43% of the US workforce by 2020. Additionally, in 2016 alone, over 40% of American workers were doing at least some of their work remotely.
On top of that, with coworking companies like WeWork now being valued at $20 billion, it’s evident the workplaces of yesterday will be much different than the workplaces of tomorrow.
According to CareerBuilder, from 2016 to 2017 alone, the US saw a 47% increase in the number of entrepreneurs who claimed they would be hiring freelancers during the calendar year. Because of the breakneck speed of today’s marketplace when it comes to innovation, these figures make sense.
Getting jobs done quickly without the need to hire a full-time employee is advantageous to companies, both from a financial perspective and in terms of legal liability. Additionally, with the rise in self-employment and the number of small to medium-sized businesses, many entrepreneurs simply lack the budget necessary to hire a skilled developer, marketer or writer on a full-time basis, making freelancers the only viable option to keep them competitive.
As a result, a handful of companies, most notably Upwork and Fiverr have risen up to capitalize on the opportunity.
These freelancing platforms allow for employers to gain access to thousands of freelancers in nearly any industry. From having a quick and seamless payment system to the transparency of a freelancer’s rates to having access to their work history and reviews, there are a number of benefits to these online marketplaces relative to hiring a freelancer outside of such a curated platform.
There are several drawbacks for freelancers on such platforms. For instance, on Upwork, the percentage is 20% on all transactions. In addition, from the standpoint of the freelancer, if their code or project lives on and continues to provide value to consumers for years to come, the freelancer only gets paid once for their work.
When looking ahead to the future of work, if the freelance economy is to reach its full potential, provide both parties involved with the utmost value and make for a stellar user experience, it’s clear more work has to be done, and utilizing blockchain technology could be a great place to start.
The shift towards distributed collective organizations grows more apparent each passing year. As freelancers begin to band together to collectively drive results for clients, the reliance on traditionally-structured organizations of workers is put into question. With the necessary technology now available for seamless, unbridled remote work to exist, overhead costs and other expenses that were once deemed obligatory are now becoming optional.
Additionally, with the successes of online platforms like Github and the necessary technology now being available, the many advantages that collaborative, crowd-curated projects have over the traditional, hierarchical structures have become evident. By having access to the collective input and wide-ranging experiences of an entire community of professionals and freelancers around the world as opposed to limiting yourself to only those in your organization, the outcome of a project will, more than likely, yield better results.
Yet, as it stands today, efforts to catapult this framework into prominence have largely fallen short. Thus far, the most outstanding example would be platform cooperatives. Defined, a platform co-op is is a cooperatively owned and governed business that creates a computing platform, and uses a protocol, website or app to facilitate the sale of products or services.
While certainly a step in the right direction, many of these platforms have had difficulty in landing early stage funding, resulting in stagnated growth or complete collapse. This is mainly due to potential investors believing the concept and business model is more of a fantasy than it is a reality.
There are a few ways blockchain can help the future of work reach its potential. The primary way is through the application of smart contracts.
Because these smart contracts are put on an irreversible ledger, it’s possible for payments to freelancers to become almost instantaneous along with past reviews and work history of freelancers to be on full display, minimizing risk for all parties involved.
Additionally, blockchain can facilitate lower platform fees relative to the costs taken by platforms like Upwork, taking power away from middlemen. By drawing from everyone’s collective knowledge and experiences, blockchain can also allow for truly fluid organizations to take form in place of centralized, top-down organizations common in today’s workplace.
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to the acceptance of distributive collective organizations is a streamlined, secure system of payment that does not have to come from the top-down. Because of blockchain technology, payments can be mediated through smart contracts as opposed to payments having to come directly from the CEO or respective decision maker.
To date, there are a handful of companies that are already using blockchain technology to help make the future of work the best it can possibly be. One example is OpenBazaar, an online marketplace where cryptocurrency is used as the standard form of currency.
On OpenBazaar, there are no platform fees or restrictions, illustrating the opportunity for blockchain to disrupt more traditional freelancing platforms.
Deconet is another company focusing on the future of work. They decentralize the knowledge economy by constructing a freelance marketplace, that compensates freelancers for the work they accomplish as opposed to the number of hours they have worked.
Unlike methods of payment that must be sent to individual freelancers on a 1-to-1 basis, They let groups of freelancers to get paid simultaneously via smart contracts. In turn, this creates an environment well-suited for collaboration and teamwork among teams and strangers alike.
By launching a code onto the blockchain, programmers earn royalties for anyone who retroactively uses their software, thus giving them a passive income, while open source coding usually is volunteer work.
The future of work is upon us, and the technology that we choose to use and create will help dictate the ultimate path we take and shape how our future workplaces will look. By applying blockchain technology to the already-innovative trends taking form in today’s marketplace, we can make for a healthier, well-rounded economy and a much happier workforce.
One might ponder if blockchain is of necessity to to the future work at all. For instance, if cryptocurrencies are not mass addopted, then the payments might be meaningless to the freelancers. But time will tell if mass adoption is underway, bringing us closer to a change of life.