3 Tips for Creating Policies About the Gig Economy

[This article was written by Michelle Delgado.]

The gig economy is changing the way we work, presenting new challenges for the HR professionals tasked with keeping company policies in pace with new trends.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 16.5 million American workers work in “contingent” arrangements as of 2018. This includes many types of gig economy workers, from independent contractors to on-call employees, Uber drivers to Airbnb hosts.

Similarly, experts estimate that nearly one-third of workers in the UK participate in the gig economy. With approximately 5 million people in short-term freelance, contract, or app-based jobs, many HR professionals are grappling with questions of how workers can balance full-time work with their gig commitments.

As more workers participate in the gig economy, HR professionals must help their companies develop policies to guide workers’ participation in side jobs. You can use this article to discover 3 essential elements policies on the gig economy must contain.

  1. Define Conflicts of Interest

At first glance, it might seem risky to endorse employees who work in the gig economy. After all, employees who have more than one job might struggle to be fully engaged and present at work.

The reality, however, tends to be much less extreme. A gig economy commitment could require as little as a few hours a week, and 85% of gig economy workers who have another job net $500 or less per month – hardly enough competition to justify wading into employees’ private lives.

Still, employees need clear guidelines that show which side gigs are off-limits. One-quarter of employees who have a side gig (25%) say their manager doesn’t know about it, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty that can still undermine the workplace.

HR professionals can remedy this by clearly outlining what types of side work present conflicts of interest. For example, a candle company might be unhappy to discover that an employee has been selling his own candles on Etsy, but an advertising agency might not mind at all.

Eliminating ambiguity about what types of side gigs present conflicts of interest will allow employees to make informed decisions and avoid putting their jobs – or the company’s reputation – at risk.

  1. Set Expectations About How Breaks Can Be Used

At most companies, employees are free to take at least one break during the day. In fact, breaks are increasingly encouraged as researchers discover that they can provide benefits such as increased productivity.

Still, virtually all companies set boundaries around how employees can choose to spend their breaks. Activities such as consuming alcohol are, quite reasonably, off limits.

Similarly, HR professionals should clearly communicate whether breaks can be used to complete side gig activities, or what type of side gig activities can be completed during a break.

Stepping out for an hour of lunchtime driving for a rideshare app or quietly writing code on a laptop in the breakroom might be perfectly acceptable, as both are unlikely to disrupt other workers. Taking calls for external clients or setting up an easel for a painting business, however, might provide greater distraction and be justifiably off-limits.

Providing clear instructions about how breaks can be used will minimize the risk of gig economy-related disruptions during the work day.

  1. Determine What Managers Must Know

Although relationships at work are becoming increasingly casual, many employees and managers still like to maintain boundaries between their work and home lives.

HR professionals can help establish these boundaries by letting employees know if they are required to disclose side work to their managers, or if they only need to disclose side work under certain conditions.

HR professionals can also coach managers on how to navigate conversations when an employee’s side gig crosses the company’s boundaries.

Overall, HR professionals provide essential support to employees and managers alike by establishing healthy levels of privacy and transparency in the workplace.

Closing Thoughts

The gig economy is here to stay, and HR professionals play a key role in helping their companies navigate it.

Employees and managers alike benefit from unambiguous company policies, especially when they address changing norms in the workplace.

By helping to establish policies around what employees must disclose, what constitutes a conflict of interest, and whether employees can use their breaks to participate in the gig economy, HR professionals can ensure that the gig economy creates minimal disruptions to daily work.

Author Bio:

Michelle Delgado is a researcher at Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm based in Washington DC. She reports on trends in human resources, staffing, and recruitment.

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