The freelance economy, once a small, largely anonymous portion of the workforce, has become a dynamic and growing source of manpower. The flexibility of this workforce cuts both ways: It allows the worker more freedom in determining when and where to work, and it offers the employer the opportunity to downsize brick-and-mortar facilities and benefit from the expanded hours a remote workforce represents.

Staples surveyed office workers and found that 12 percent are full time freelancers, and another 12 percent freelance in addition to working a full time job. When freelancers were asked why they choose not to journey to an office every day, 39 percent said freelancing has led to greater income for them than staff jobs. Another 37 percent said setting their own schedules is the big draw, and 32 percent said they freelance to achieve better work-life balance.

“The freelance economy is a win-win for people who have a desire to work on their own time and companies who want to streamline in-house operations,” said Pat Griffin, enterprise account executive at HourlyNerd, a company that connects businesses who need help with a project to an expert who can do the job. “With smart, collaborative technology becoming more mainstream, the freelance economy enables businesses to redefine their workplace strategy, making the physical workspace more effective by establishing efficient team structures and collaboration models.”

Staples noted that cutting edge companies respond to the freelancing opportunity by offering flexible tools such as hot desking and hoteling, which make work spaces available on an as-needed basis; remote access to IT services and equipment; and enhanced communications systems that take into account the remote working needs of key employees.

Staples also offered the following tips for getting the most out of freelancers:

1. Align on a workforce strategy. Human resources and procurement officers need to develop a strategy that balances efficiency, effectiveness and risk when vetting, managing and compensating freelancers and contract workers in line with the market.

2. Find the right mix of face-to-face interaction. Most freelance work should involve some sort of face-to-face interaction, whether the freelancer sits in the office for the duration of the project or has a mix of virtual and in-person work.

3. Provide necessary technology and accommodating personal mobile devices. Businesses should ensure extra equipment such as laptops, docking stations and monitors are available so freelancers can plug in and get to work without delay. IT departments should also be prepared to incorporate personal mobile technology into their mobile device management service as appropriate.

4. Consider safety concerns.
 When new freelance employees enter the building, facility managers must provide the necessary safety trainings, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Right to Know standard.

5. Manage expenses for supplies. In some cases, freelancers or contract workers may use their own office supplies and charge it back to the company as an expense, which means negotiated cost savings with office supply providers can be lost. Procurement officers should ensure freelancers and contract workers use company bill codes when acquiring supplies to get company discounts.