This sponsored post is produced by Upwork, formerly Elance-oDesk.

Many white-collar workers have dreamt of a corner office on the top floor with an assistant welcoming guests and serving coffee during meetings. If you’re one of these dreamers, I have news for you: that corner office of yours won’t be making any sense in a few years.

We are living in a Connected Era. With the opportunities that technology and Internet access offer, more of us can work from wherever and whenever.

Many already do: according to studies conducted in the past two years, there are about 53 million freelancers in the U.S. and at least 8.9 million in the EU. The number of people who prefer flexible schedules and the empowerment of independent employment are rising across all continents, forming the new working paradigm, to which we need to start adapting sooner rather than later.

The Generation Y factor

Freelancing is becoming a “new normal” in the labour market as more and more young people embrace this career path. Eighty-seven percent of the U.K.’s top performing graduates see freelancing as an attractive career option; in the U.S., 79 percent of millennials said they “would consider quitting their regular job and working for themselves in the future.”

At the same time, almost half of American hiring managers are planning to recruit more freelancers in the next years. For them, the flexibility and ability to have resources start working immediately are the main advantages of working with independent professionals. They’re comparing this with the month — often more — required to “traditionally” hire full-time employee, while it only takes three days to hire an independent professional online.

Technology companies are creating more tools and services to help the tech-savvy millennials work flexibly over the Internet, from marketplaces that connect freelancers and clients to various communication, project management, and file-sharing services. Moreover, these solutions are often created for millennials by millennials, who best know the needs of their generation.

Pushing the geographic limits

With the paradigm shift of the Connected Era, the corner office becomes a coworking space near where you live, a Starbuck’s, or a beach house — or simply a room in your home.

In our new world, the assistant in your dreams who helps you book your travels, manage your schedule, and organize your meetings will be a virtual assistant you’ll likely never meet in person. He or she will be be based out of the Philippines or North Dakota and you’ll work with them via the Internet.

You’ll be able to dream differently, and even bigger… to change the views from your office window as often as you like if you become a true “digital nomad.” The community of digital nomads is growing rapidly — people working remotely can easily change places and live and work in any corner of the world. All you need is a laptop, power socket, and reliable Internet connection, a set of requirements that is becoming available in more and more places. Therefore, you can say goodbye to commuting in heavy traffic every morning and start planning your work around your life, not the other way around.

It is, however, very important for professionals who want to adapt to the “gig economy” to become not just freelancers but solopreneurs. In addition to hard skills, the new generation of workforce has to be knowledgeable about marketing and business planning, and be ready to “sell” themselves to clients.

Hiring done right

It’s not just job-seekers who need to change their approach — today’s employers need to refine their efforts as well.

The flexibility of the workforce makes companies more flexible, too. Hiring the right talent for a project or an ongoing job becomes faster and easier, and businesses can get specialist online freelancers to join their hybrid team — a team that consists of on-site and online members. This is what independent work is all about — specialization, unique expertise, and using skills exactly where and when they are necessary.

Hiring freelancers allows businesses to target the best talent anywhere, as well as lower office expenditure and general cost of hiring. To accomplish this, companies will need to invest in and embrace technology to support remote working. They’ll also need to develop a culture where remote and on-site workers are valued and motivated equally.

Hybrid teams of both onsite and remote workers are a new thing for most businesses, and it’s hard to overestimate the importance of building them well.

As CEO of Upwork, formerly Elance-oDesk, Stephane is driving the company’s vision of connecting businesses with talent faster than ever. He is an expert on working with professionals around the world, having also managed the company’s global tech team of 300+ product managers, designers and engineers. Stephane has 16 years of leadership experience. Previously, he was Global Head of PayPal Consumer Products, Global Head of PayPal Mobile Business Development and Managing Director of PayPal France, held leadership roles at pioneering companies including Fireclick, Work4, and Zong, and was a founder of Fireclick and iFeelGoods. Stephane is also the author of “Hire Fast & Build Things,” an ebook on how to manage geographically distributed teams. Find more of his perspective in a CareerDean Q&A here


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