’Flexeteriat’ workers are nothing new. That’s why they’ve got staying power

Fortune magazine predicted that the term to define 2024 would be “flexeteriat.” Coined by Julia Hobsbawm, author and Bloomberg Workshift columnist, the flexeteriat is an emerging subgroup of workers that prioritize flexible working above all else.

Flexeteriat are, for all intents and purposes, gig workers. However, they eschew the low-paid, insecure nature of what was generally recognized as gigging — food delivery couriers, rideshare drivers, etc. Instead, the flexeteriat are a high-paid, high-powered and highly skilled breed of gig worker.

However, as last year saw many major companies roll out return-to-the-office mandates, it could be argued that dubbing 2024 “the year of the flexeteriat” is a little optimistic. One notable example was Google, which is now compelling employees to attend the office at least three days a week.

Despite this, I would argue that Hobsbawm is right on the money. This is because a storm was brewing long before the pandemic, which since has crystalized the power of the highly mobile independent worker.

Who Are the Flexeteriat?

Before continuing, it’s important to make a clear distinction between the flexeteriat and the average remote worker. After resistance to return-to-the-office mandates, many employers met workers in the middle with hybrid work packages.

For the flexeteriat, this offer hasn’t been good enough. This is why they’re more akin to gig workers than the average teleworker. Instead of being tied to one employer, they take on multiple projects to maximize freedom. They work when they want, where they want, on what they want.

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They’ve Been Around Longer Than You Think

Although the term was first used in Scoop Technologies’ Scoop Flex Report 2024, the flexeteriat existed long before the buzzword came into being. The pandemic — which, as we all know too well, set the tone for the future work — demonstrated to knowledge workers that they needn’t be tethered to their desks.

However, the evolution of the flexeteriat began long before. As Hobsbawm herself has noted, the gig economy has been on the up for some time. According to the Upwork Research Institute, an average of 1 million people in the US go freelance per year, since their records began in 2014. Hobsbawm highlights that the condition is reflected in the developing world, where according to the World Bank, demand for gig work ballooned 100% from 2016 to 2020.

This was likely due to continuing economic hardship and younger generations’ subsequent wariness of the corporate world. Today, 52% of all Gen Z and 44% of millennials are freelance. Equally, Nomadlist estimates that the majority of digital nomads are in their mid-thirties.

With this in mind, we are now reflecting on a decade-long rise of the flexeteriat. Pandemic or not, the flexeteriat movement has gained significant traction and is here to stay. So how will companies respond to this new, empowered breed of worker?

Forward-Thinking Firms Are Open to the Idea

Despite the ultimatums set by Google et al, it seems that they’re not representative of every organization or industry. According to Rod Sadow, Scoop CEO, top firms are responding to the demand for greater flexibility. Now, 62% of US companies offer location flexibility as part of their employment packages — up 51% from the beginning of last year.

Meanwhile, those at the vanguard are fully embracing the flexeteriat. Last year, it was reported that 32% of companies were turning to freelancers over full-time hires. Why? Because they guaranteed quality while cutting costs. For companies trying to balance the books post-pandemic, it’s a no-brainer. Plus, with recruitment partners like Outvise — who’ve been flying the flag for the flexeteriat from the outset — it’s easier than ever to access quality-controlled freelancers from all over the world.

The age of flexeteriat has arrived. For the last ten years, the most promising talent has turned away from the nine-to-five, and now, they’re snubbing hybrid work too. What they seek is full autonomy, and for companies, agility should be the response. The time to embrace the flexeteriat is now.

Alex Collart

Alex Collart
A serial entrepreneur and management consultant, Alex Collart is CFO and co-founder of Outvise.

Alex Collart

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