There are several benefits to gig and contract roles, such as work-life flexibility, but with more workers (millennials in particular) moving towards this kind of employment – 15% of the workforce is now self-employed – it looks like many will lose out on a subtle induction into one rather important social norm: the experience of office life and how it teaches us to get along with others, says The Times.

Crucial Workplace Skills vs Independence

In the workplace, individuals have a prime opportunity to learn important social and intellectual skills that can benefit them in the wider world, The Times continued. In an office, you will usually be surrounded by colleagues from a number of different backgrounds and incomes. You learn to be more conscious of others’ viewpoints and your differences; you wouldn’t assume every colleague has the same lifestyle as you, for example. It is often the case that you must communicate with those who you wouldn’t necessarily choose to befriend outside of work. Nevertheless, you learn how to find common ground, which is the key to surviving office life.

In an office set up, you’re more likely to contain your behaviour and subdue your ego than if you were at home, which helps with self-control. In addition to becoming aware of your surroundings, you also become conscious of how you come across to others – not wanting to take up too much of another’s valuable time, for example.

In comparison, during gig, contract and freelance work, there is less opportunity to pick up these social skills, because those who choose this line of work aren’t regularly surrounded by others. Gig economy workers are often isolated and can come across as arrogant, because “they don’t need to get on with anyone but their investors,” The Times said. The news website reported they aren’t learning how to depend on others and they don’t feel they need to pay much attention to them either.

Many people who have never been at work have great charm, empathy and quick wits. But for most of us, learning how to accommodate, impress and achieve alongside disparate individuals is one of the critical ways in which we develop as human beings and which binds our society together.” – The Times

Millennials and Social Skills

With millennials already branded the “most entitled and self-absorbed in human history,” it’s a little worrying they’re the generation most likely to be outside of traditional workplaces, and therefore potentially missing out on key social skills – skills it seems they’re very much in need of today. Of those who have entered the workplace, The Telegraph said a third of companies are currently dissatisfied with graduates’ attitudes to work and their ability to self-manage. Experts say millennials are “absolutely hopeless when it comes to basic life and workplace skills,” reports news.com.au.

Technology may have provided a way for millennials to work remotely (it’s no surprise they can’t see why sitting in a building is necessary), but it has hindered their ability to effectively communicate (outside the comfort of their smartphones). Everything they do today – taking part in class projects, transferring some money, ordering a pizza – can be done via an app. This means young people are less likely to have face to face conversations and as a result are less likely to understand how they are perceived by others in real life, continued news.com.au. Soft skills such as verbal and written communication are basic and needed by every jobseeker regardless of role, but they are often missing in young adults, the news site said.

Is Gig Work For You?

If you’re weighing up whether you’d like to be a part of the gig economy – say you’re coming to the end of secondary education – it’s definitely worth weighing up the pros and cons. Temporary work may give you more of an opportunity to pursue a passion, work-life flexibility and the advantage of an established infrastructure, but you will have to be responsible for your own taxes and may also have to deal with inconsistent employment and fewer employment rights. If you feel you can avoid the office and still pick up the social skills so crucial in day to day life through the likes of say, networking, perhaps gig work is for you.

If you’d like to add one of UKCBC’s AAT, HND or top-up degree qualifications to your CV before you enter the workplace full-time, contact a UKCBC course advisor today for more information. The College’s professional development classes give students the soft skills they need to enter the workplace with confidence.

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