Three ways the “on-the-go” economy has disrupted UK’s workforce

A new report reveals a growing nexus between the sharing economy and the on-demand economy, the on-the-go economy, as the engine driving the UK's workforce. Here's why SMEs need to adapt and respond now

A new report reveals a growing nexus between the sharing economy and the on-demand economy, the on-the-go economy, as the engine driving the UK’s workforce. Here’s why SMEs need to adapt and respond now

The UK has palpably shifted towards the on-the-go economy according to a report commissioned by expense management technology company, Concur

The on-the-go economy is defined as the intersection between the on-demand and sharing economies as a result of our age of heightened connectivity and accessible technology. The report, Virtual Instanity, shows this has resulted in a seismic shift in social, economic and psychological behaviour in today’s workforce.

Time is money

In the on-the-go economy, time has real value both economically and psychologically. The need to make the most use of every moment and have immediate access to things has become an important part of working culture, which is referred to as ‘instanity’ in the report. This kind of workplace behaviour and expectations has given rise to the prevalence of virtual assistants and life services with the assumption that employees will manage matters in the moment, regardless of where they are. 

“The on-the-go economy is redefining the boundaries of how we do business. What has been fundamentally underestimated is the pace of change and its wider implications. Employees are no longer tied to the 9am – 5pm, they want to work on their own terms,” according to Scott Torrey, EVP and GM EMEA, at Concur.

No more traditional office hours

The on-the-go economy flies in the face of the decades-old practice of presenteeism, where employees are essentially seat-fillers to show they are putting in the hours to get work done.  Businesses now have greater awareness of the unproductive nature of presenteeism and are increasingly more accepting of fragmented working hours and outputs rather than using time spent in the office as an indicator of performance. 

Concur’s Torrey sees this as an inevitable change in the way we do business, if properly managed. “From coffee shops becoming the third workspace to psychologists offering on-the-go therapy sessions in bars and via Skype, we’re redefining the workplace and our role within it and shaping the future of economic output.

“We need to ensure that everyone is empowered to engage in the on-the-go economy in a way that benefits them. The on-the-go economy brings with it risks as well as opportunities – both of which need to be carefully managed,” he explained.

“Making the transition to the on-the-go-economy will not be easy. It completely reinvents the roles that we as individuals play within the wider economic context and requires a sustained focus on education, training and skills across society. To ensure no one is excluded from the benefits of the on-the-go era all stakeholders – from government, education and business from start-ups, microbusinesses, SMEs and enterprise – have a part to play both at an individual and collaborative level.”

BYOD and new means of workplace communication

Newer, younger entrants in the workforce reportedly have a preference for working from their own devices, which has created a slight shift away from email towards messaging platforms as well as a different way of managing and compartmentalising communications across different channels.

“(Members of the on-the-go economy) are resourceful and entrepreneurial, recognising that they can utilise existing assets, such as a spare room, and turn them into revenue streams. It’s one of the key reasons why in recent years we’ve seen such a spate of start-ups, disrupting traditional business models and pioneering new markets,” Torrey added.

What the report highlights most clearly is the thriving state of entrepreneurship within this on-the-go economic model, which has left enterprise businesses struggling to demonstrate how they can add value to employees’ lives. To counter this, the report predicts a return towards the old model of investing in employees, to prioritise looking after their training and wellbeing. 

According to Steve Flatt, psychologist and founder of the Psychological Therapies Unit, the on-the-go economy may be the balance dated organisations need to prevent employee burnout. “Achieving and recognising the need for balance within the on-the-go economy is key for our mental wellbeing, but also for businesses and the wider economy,” he explained. “If companies find themselves on the hamster wheel of recruitment and training only for them to burn out as well, it is hardly the most productive and efficient system.”

Virtual Instanity is supported by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce and the CEBR

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics