The future of contracting – 75% of contractor’s priorities flexibility over funds in latest survey.

What a difference a year makes! So much has changed for everybody, and the contractor market is no exception. The changes, and more pertinently, the resulting changing opinions, have largely been for the good of the industry. The latest survey taken here at Integro Accounting at the end of 2020, helps us look at the future of the market and the added importance being given to health and wellbeing.

The increased value of a healthy work/life balance.

Our survey results show that flexibility and a better work/life balance was the number one reason that people chose to become a contractor, the single most important reason given for the third Integro Accounting survey running.

What’s great is that, with so many people currently working from home due to Covid, companies are more aware than ever that remote working can, in fact, lead to increased productivity.

And indeed, for those who are working from home for the first time, it has been an eye-opener in terms of what can be achieved without the daily commute. It is likely that, consequently, more people may consider contract work than ever before.

Increased productivity and remote working

The thinking of companies is now aligning with that of contractors, and that can only be a good thing. It has been proven that just because someone isn’t sitting in your office doesn’t mean they aren’t your best option.

An article printed by Business Matters reported that productivity among the majority of those working from home during lockdown remained stable, or even improved, compared to six months previously. What’s really interesting, is that the impact of productivity varied according to the frequency that employees used their home as their work place. Those using the home sometimes, or often, reported a downward shift in their productivity when they did so but employees who did all of their paid work at home reported an increase in productivity. Again, this is encouraging information, and this should in turn make companies more comfortable turning to contractors in the future.

It will not surprise us at all if we see more and more people choosing to become contractors now that they know they can work just as well at home, with the additional benefit of increased flexibility and being more autonomous.

Mental health and well-being are now considered more important than ever.

There’s no doubt about it, this year has taken its toll on everybody. People are worried about the future, stressed and anxious. The Health Foundation tells us that one of the drivers of worsening mental health during the pandemic has been job and financial losses. The Mental Health Foundation has reported that over a third of people in full-time work who were surveyed were concerned about losing their job and the mental health impact on those already unemployed was severe.

We predict that when things return to relative ‘normality’, people will be reviewing the way that they work, whether having more time at home was of benefit to them, and how they can change the way they work moving forward to incorporate some of the things learnt during the pandemic.

A report from Microsoft Surface and YouGov entitled ‘Work Smarter to live better’ has found that almost nine out of 10 (87%) employees reported their businesses have adapted to hybrid working and that this new way of working has given people the opportunity to live life in a different way with 56% reporting an increase in their levels of happiness working from home.

So, it is not really a surprise that flexibility (followed by increased pay and a better work life balance) is the top reason people turn to contracting. The only difference is that now more people appreciate this fact.

But is going freelance really worth the risk in light of IR35?

In brief, yes, absolutely.

Due to Covid the implementation of IR35 in the private sector was delayed from April 2020 to April 2021. This has been positive as it has allowed people within the market more time to prepare themselves on the subject. There is now a much better understanding, and a lot of the negative stories surrounding IR35 have decreased.

There will always be a demand for specific skill sets and for those people who do not want to tie themselves to one employee, deal with office politics, do the same commute every day etc. freelancing is still a great option. Providing you do your research, speak to the experts and are comfortable with the terminology, whether you’re working inside or outside IR35, the benefits of being a freelancer still stand.

A brighter future for freelancers and contractors

Going back to our last survey, which despite being taken at a bad time, just before Christmas and when lockdown was in full swing, the response showed us that contractors and freelancers are resilient and confident in their own ability. It’s a way of working that people choose for the slightly different lifestyle it offers compared to regular employment, and it’s an industry that is going strong. People have seen past IR35 and its negative press, and will continue to do what they do best. And in the wake of Covid, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if others join them now they’ve had a taste of just how productive they can be working remotely.

We move with the times

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