I’ve worked as a freelancer in ‘temp’ work for almost seven years now. And during that time, while I’ve experience the flexibility and freedom of work and work schedule, there have also been certain downsides.
Some people might prefer flexibility in their work over the standard work environment. According to CNBC, “For Americans who can’t find jobs, the booming demand for temp workers has been a path out of unemployment, but now many fear it’s a dead-end route.”
The article goes on to note, “With full-time work hard to find, these workers have built temping into a de facto career, minus vacation, sick days or insurance. The assignments might be temporary – a few months here, a year there – but labor economists warn that companies’ growing hunger for a workforce they can switch on and off could do permanent damage to these workers’ career trajectories and retirement plans.”
I’m not here to promote one style of work over the other. I have however experienced some of the downsides to temp-style work “flexibility”.
Constantly starting over
It can take some time to settle into a new job or workplace environment. However, as a temp worker or freelancer, you might just be getting to know one employer or job when you have to switch to next. This can be nice in a way, since it can be invigorating and you may not get as bored with a particular role or find yourself getting complacent, but the instability can also be stressful. Learning new or different work and performance standards, learning new co-worker or boss personalities, and settling into a work groove over and over again can get somewhat exhausting after a while.
Harder to build a consistent career track record
In the past, as a hiring manager, one of the things I looked at on employment applications was workplace consistency and job timeframes. Seeing employment stability over time gave me an idea of how likely it was for an employee to stay with the company if I hired them. However, in today’s temp world, this may not be a good indicator of employee loyalty. Bouncing from one job to the next as a temp worker may have been a way to make ends meet or a way to more freely explore the working world or a particular industry, but it could hurt an applicant’s ability to find a more stable work role moving forward.
Fewer monetary benefits
As the CNBC article noted, things like employer-sponsored health insurance, retirement plans, sick days, vacation, and other monetary benefits can largely be lacking in many temp or freelance positions. This can put a pretty big damper on the flexibility that such work may offer. So while the effects of such work might seem positive in the near term, workers could be trading reduced overall financial security both now and in the future for such freedoms.
Even the little things
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a job or workplace special. It’s not necessarily the work routine that I remember from my previous employer-sponsored career but the people, parties, inside jokes, get-togethers after work, and special experiences shared between co-workers.
In a temp position, there can be less of that workplace camaraderie. While at first it might not seem like a big deal, after a few years, you could find yourself longing for the times when you could do a little gossiping over a cup of coffee in the breakroom or rehash last night’s big game at the water cooler.
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The author is not a licensed financial professional or career advisor. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.