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In the pandemic economy, it’s all about the side hustle

April 21, 2021, 9:08 PM UTC

Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

In this week’s edition, S. Mitra Kalita looks at the rise of the independent worker during COVID.


It took a pandemic, but the side hustle finally got promoted…into the C-suite. 

Even before COVID, independent workers were a growing part of the U.S. labor force; by one pre-pandemic estimate, more than a third of workers were involved in the gig economy. In 2020, their wages and participation grew 33%. 

That’s partly because of the economic and emotional roller coaster of the past year and the need for quick decision-making, nonetheless. Or “once bitten, twice shy,” as Stephanie Nadi Olson characterizes it; Olson is founder and CEO of We Are Rosie, an on-demand talent company. “People had to lay off friends and were hesitant to build back up,” she says. “They became open to hybrid models and asked, ‘How do we rebuild in a de-risked way?’”

Based in Atlanta, We Are Rosie is a freelance network of marketing talent that helps brands and agencies staff up. Partly in response to COVID, the company launched Rosie Recruits, which allows employers and employees to try each other out for six months. 

This shift in power dynamics is key to the rise of the independent worker. The pandemic ignited people to prioritize values and purpose in their place of employment. Economic uncertainty forces employers to do more with less. And the Black Lives Matter movement prompted scrutiny and introspection, from startups to corporate America, on issues of pay equity, representation, and diversity across all rungs of a company. (Workers of color have long made up a higher portion of the gig economy, a vast category that includes delivery drivers and chief marketing officers.)

recent hiring survey found 92% of respondents thinking it’s a good time to look into gig work. More than half said they would like a long-term contract with flexible hours. 

Even as Americans begin to tiptoe back to in-person work, this desire for flexibility remains.  


Kalita goes on to write how the blurring lines between full-time and part-time and in-person and in-office workers is changing how companies work with hired talent.

Read her full column here.

Wondering what else the future of work holds? Visit Fortune‘s Smarter Working hub presented by Future Forum by Slack.

This week's reads

Emotional journey

Skilled leaders understand what motivates people, including themselves (Fast Company)

Double standards

Supplier programs to help minority businesses often backfire because of extra training and burdensome requirements (Harvard Business Review)

Workplace violence

The FedEx shooting in Indianapolis was the first workplace shooting since the start of the pandemic, and experts brace themselves for what's to come (NBC News)

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