The freelance economy, once a small, largely anonymous portionof the workforce, has become a dynamic and growing source ofmanpower. The flexibility of this workforce cuts both ways: Itallows the worker more freedom in determining when and where towork, and it offers the employer the opportunity to downsizebrick-and-mortar facilities and benefit from the expanded hours aremote workforce represents.

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Staples surveyed office workers and found that 12 percent arefull time freelancers, and another 12 percent freelance in additionto working a full time job. When freelancers were asked why theychoose not to journey to an office every day, 39 percent saidfreelancing has led to greater income for them than staff jobs.Another 37 percent said setting their own schedules is the bigdraw, and 32 percent said they freelance to achieve betterwork-life balance.

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“The freelance economy is a win-win for people who have a desireto work on their own time and companies who want to streamlinein-house operations,” said Pat Griffin, enterprise accountexecutive at HourlyNerd, a company that connects businesses whoneed help with a project to an expert who can do the job. “Withsmart, collaborative technology becoming more mainstream, thefreelance economy enables businesses to redefine their workplacestrategy, making the physical workspace more effective byestablishing efficient team structures and collaborationmodels.”

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Staples noted that cutting edge companies respond to thefreelancing opportunity by offering flexible tools such ashot desking and hoteling, which makework spaces available on an as-needed basis; remote access to ITservices and equipment; and enhanced communications systems thattake into account the remote working needs of key employees.

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Staples also offered the following tips for getting the most outof freelancers:

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1. Align on a workforce strategy. Humanresources and procurement officers need to develop a strategy thatbalances efficiency, effectiveness and risk when vetting, managingand compensating freelancers and contract workers in line with themarket.

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2. Find the right mix of face-to-faceinteraction. Most freelance work should involve somesort of face-to-face interaction, whether the freelancer sits inthe office for the duration of the project or has a mix of virtualand in-person work.

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3. Provide necessary technology and accommodatingpersonal mobile devices. Businesses should ensureextra equipment such as laptops, docking stations and monitors areavailable so freelancers can plug in and get to work without delay.IT departments should also be prepared to incorporatepersonal mobile technology into theirmobile device management service as appropriate.

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4. Consider safety concerns.
When new freelanceemployees enter the building, facility managers must provide thenecessary safety trainings, such as the Occupational Safetyand Health Administration Right to Know standard.

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5. Manage expenses for supplies. In somecases, freelancers or contract workers may use their own officesupplies and charge it back to the company as an expense, whichmeans negotiated cost savings with office supply providers can belost. Procurement officers should ensure freelancers and contractworkers use company bill codes when acquiring supplies to getcompany discounts.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.