Business Use of Freelancers Accelerates Amidst the Pandemic, Finds Upwork Report

Remote work has led to more change in the workforce, and as a result, 53% of businesses have used more remote freelancers

Upwork Inc., the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent, today released a new research report, the “Future Workforce Pulse Report,” examining how businesses are approaching hiring. Utilizing survey data from over 1,000 U.S. hiring managers, the report finds that the use of remote freelancing has dramatically increased as a result of the pandemic, and will continue to rise in the future.

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“Remote work has become, what economists call, a general purpose technology”

The change to fully remote workforces has led to changes across organizations, far beyond where their workforce is located. In fact, 67% of businesses reported that there were more changes to long-term management practices than a normal year, excluding temporary pandemic-led changes. These changes are broad and impact everything from how work gets done, to who is doing the work.

“Remote work has become, what economists call, a general purpose technology,” says Upwork Chief Economist Adam Ozimek. “It has a wide range of uses that is embraced across the economy and creates a variety of spillover effects and we are already seeing the signs of these effects. The embrace of a more fully remote workforce has enabled businesses to embrace new technology, reimagine how they onboard and train, and even allowed hiring managers to embrace the use of freelancers.”

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Key findings reveal:

  • Remote Work Projections are Strong: 27.7%, or 40.7 million Americans, will be fully remote in the next five years, which is up from 22.9% in our last survey conducted in November 2020.
  • Remote Has Changed Management Practices: 67% of businesses reported that there were more changes to long-term management practices than a normal year, excluding temporary changes caused by the pandemic. Of those, 26% of businesses reported that there were many more changes and another 41% said that there were somewhat more changes than normal.
  • COVID Accelerated Remote Freelancer Adoption: As a result of the pandemic, over half, 53%, of businesses say that remote work has increased their willingness to use freelancers.
  • Businesses Plan to Continue Engaging Remote Freelancers: 71% of hiring managers plan to sustain or increase their use of freelancers in the next 6 months.
  • Strong Demand for Skilled Tech Freelancers: The largest increase in freelancer usage has been in the Web, Mobile, and Software Development category, with 80% of hiring managers stating they have increased their use of freelancers in the category since the onset of COVID.
  • Tech Freelance Talent will Remain in Demand: Similarly, this demand for freelancers in the tech category will continue, as nearly two thirds of hiring managers plan to increase their use of freelancers in the tech category in the next 12 months.

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