There are now approximately 1.6 million freelancers working in the UK, according to The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed For businesses.
Freelance staff offer a number of advantages for businesses - from allowing firms to bring in subject matter specialists at short notice to mobilising a temporary workforce during periods of high demand.
However, in order to unlock the operational efficiencies these employees offer, business leaders must integrate freelancers into the wider working culture, says Nigel Crunden, a Business Specialist at Office Depot.
“Technology is instrumental in granting remote access to shared resources but it should also be utilised to give freelancers sight of ‘live’ progress reports. It can allow them to communicate with their peers and project leaders, whether this be by Skype, email, or face-to-face in an office environment. This ability to seek advice and to bounce ideas off other employees will reduce frustration, prevent the work from deviating from the brief and promote collaboration,” Crunden explains.
“While technology allows freelancers to work remotely, businesses may still find it beneficial to invite them to work at their offices to be fully integrated into the organisation. This may seem impractical at first, but businesses with a regular contingent of freelance workers can utilise intelligent office design to accommodate temporary staff. Mobile desks and moveable partitions can create a versatile working space which can be reconfigured to adapt to changing project teams and partnerships. Hot-desking can also prove useful but equipment such as personal storage spaces or lockers should be provided so that employees can securely store their belongings for ease of access.
“Inviting freelancers into project meetings or giving them leave to use company break out areas is also a happy medium, where productivity can be maximised while maintaining the ability for ad hoc interactions and collaboration with permanent employees. Ultimately, seeking feedback from freelancers and the in-house project team on what practical arrangements are most beneficial for them is essential in establishing an efficient and effective working partnership.”