Has freelancing had a negative effect on the UK office market?

benefits of freelancing

How we work and where we work has changed dramatically over the past five years. The ‘freelance generation’ have driven a trend of working in a more flexible way to fit around lifestyle, travelling and social activities. We were interested to see how this has impacted on the UK office market and if the ‘rise of the freelancer’ has made any significant differences to demand.

What is a freelancer?

A freelancer is someone who is self-employed and often not committed to one single employer. They rarely have the same employment rights as someone employed full time but there are benefits of freelancing, such as flexibility and the ability to work around their lifestyle. Companies often outsource work to freelancers on short-term flexible contacts for specific jobs.

The effects of outsourcing work are subjective to the industry and purpose of the outsourcing. The primary goal of outsourcing is to enable companies to generate better revenue and to provide a competitive edge by having access to additional skill sets which their employees may not have.

In order to find out the influence outsourcing has on the UK office market, we have to gain an understanding into the impacts of freelancing on businesses. Below are some key points which outline both positives and negatives:

Positives

Financially more beneficial to a business owner in terms of labour and operational costs.

By outsourcing to a specialist, you should end up with a higher quality of work.

Cost effective for specialist tasks, allowing a company to hire on a short-term basis and utilise necessary skills as and when required.

Provides ‘staff’ with the flexibility and ability to work hours that suit them and not their employer. This can potentially lead to a more focused individual working on the job and generally improving quality.

Negatives

No central hub for communication between employees. Lack of cohesion between teams.

Loss of control over business processes.

Confidentiality – A key problem, especially if the outsourcing to companies is situated in countries with less stringent data protection laws than the UK.

Lack of training and building within the company. If the company continues to outsource the specialist skill sets and doesn’t direct resources to training its long-term employees, it may end up weakening the business.

Lack of loyalty and lower morale of staff therefore leading to lower productivity.

How does this affect the UK office property market?

There are two main effects outsourcing has on the UK office market.

In recent years as freelancing has flourished, so has the need for flexible space. Freelancers require space to work in, be it in a serviced office or co-working space as people do not always like working at home by themselves. The freelancer has, therefore, forced Landlords to consider how their properties attract the ‘freelance generation’, which has been a positive for the entire office market. Key changes have been the rise of co-working environments and the creation of collaboration hubs to encourage freelancers to communicate, work together and grow their business if required.

Freelancers tend to be entrepreneurial and some will want to grow their businesses and employee staff. The more freelancers there are, the higher the chance of small businesses being created. More businesses being created means the increased need for office space and therefore higher levels of demand for offices.

In summary, the benefits of freelancing and the freelance generation, in general, has actually led to a positive impact on the UK office market. The surge in entrepreneurs and freelancers has meant a rise in the development of small short-term flexible co-working spaces.

In addition, the entrepreneurial freelancer is likely to grow their company and create a small team who will, in turn, need somewhere to work from. This is likely to increase demand for offices in the UK.

By Oliver Salter