Is More Workplace Flexibility a Fad or a Trend?

When I travel, I take, on average, three or four Uber trips a day. And I love to strike up a conversation with drivers to get local information and different perspectives on how they see the world.

When I ask why they drive for Uber, many say they love the incredible autonomy to live their lives in way that works for them and are often willing to make less money to get it. Like the single mother who works around her daughter’s school schedule, the athlete who follows a specific training schedule, and a retiree who wants to engage with other people.

The driver I met on a recent trip to Las Vegas to speak at a conference, was a real pro. He pulled up with my name on a sign and took pride in his service, which he knows yields bigger tips. Then he told me that while he could make almost the same money at his old job as a big-hotel banquet server, he preferred the flexibility of working hours and time off when he wanted it. He no longer had to put in a request, months in advance, deal with other levels of seniority and negotiate with other workers.

Fad or trend?

As well as a shift from authoritarian to more democratic leadership styles, I’m watching this trend of people’s desire for more flexibility and autonomy, and the rise of the gig economy.

I’m always fascinated by new trends, particularly those that shape the way people think and behave. Like life before and after the invention of computers, then the internet. Or the demand for, and convenience of, ready-made foods, which can now be delivered to your door.

Fads fade away like the latest fashion. Trend shape how people think and behave and can be adopted into more lasting behaviours that become fundamental and foundational to our lives.

Pendulum swings

It’ll be interesting to see how these evolve, over time. Trends often pendulum swing from one extreme to another and then find a balance, as everyone adapts.

Not every company can function and serve their customers well without structure and time commitments from employees. Others, like Uber, benefit from very independent gig workers. Look at these stats:

  • Within sixteen months of being launched, Uber hit $1 billion in annualized gross bookings
  • Today, 93 million customers use the Uber platform, served by 3.5 million drivers
  • Uber generated $31.8 billion revenue in 2022, an 82% increase on the previous year
  • 131 million people use Uber or Uber Eats once a month, an 11% increase year-on-year
  • Uber drivers completed 7.6 billion trips in 2022, surpassing its previous peak of 6.9 billion trips made in 2019.

Look ahead

Fads come and go. But trends, short or long term, can affect our ability to recruit the talent we need and to stay competitive. Our job, as leaders, is pay attention.

The Challenge

  • If this is a fad, what could you do to capitalize on it?
  • If this is a trend, what can you do to win and continue to compete for the best talent?

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