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Allison O'Kelly Headshot

Rebutting the Fact That Temp Work Is a Bad Thing

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Earlier this week, I read an article by Associated Press employment and economy reporter, Chris Rugaber, reporting on the "Temporary jobs rise amid economic uncertainty." An interesting, factual piece, but he throws quite a lot of shade on temporary, freelance and contract work citing the "negative effects" it has on both the economy and the professionals working in those positions. While he makes a case to stigmatize temps in some ways, I would like to supplement his piece with a different perspective and the positive side of what we're seeing in regards to an increasing temporary workforce.

Mr. Rugaber is correct in that we are moving to a more "just in time" or free-agent workforce, but it isn't just the economy and business driving this. In our work with professionals and organizations nationally at Mom Corps, an increased preference for contract work, part-time gigs and even temporary roles is also being driven by professionals and job hunters. Leading talent and high-level project specialists are seeking out this type of work at greater numbers for all kinds of reasons.

While roughly 46 percent of spending on temps could be considered "non-professional," largely in the manufacturing/warehouse and office/clerical industries, the more than 50 percent remaining are considered professional positions -- nurses, IT professionals, engineers, etc. My take, and what caught my attention reading this piece, is that Mr. Rugaber presents just one view of what temporary work has the potential to be. Through his examples, he seems to further classify temporary work as "shift work" and reject the idea that it can be an entirely positive, fulfilling and mutually beneficial work situation. Where are the positive stories?

Companies hire temporary workers in an uncertain economy as a way to streamline workforces and maximize efficiencies. That's a good thing. Temporary work situations also make sense for many professionals, and I counter the notion that, as a whole, these jobs are a losing proposition to professionals and the economy. We see these jobs as sometimes the difference for someone being able to feed their family or not, or get a foot back in the door after time out of the workforce, or as the best option for someone having to spend time caring for a loved one for an extended period.

The reality is that many smart, accomplished, hard-working professionals are seeking this flexible, free-agent way to work. The temporary workforce has afforded so many the opportunity to have a rewarding career that can be shaped to fit their lives and choices.

Both domestically and overseas, workplace survey after workplace survey has found that professionals hold flexibility in the highest regard and in some cases, even higher than salary. Our latest Mom Corps survey found that nearly one in two working adults are willing to give up a percentage of their salary for more flexibility at work. On average, employees are willing to relinquish nearly 10 percent of their salary for the adaptive environment they desire.

There is a need for temporary work and it benefits organizations immensely by allowing more flexibility in a changing economy. It also allows professionals looking for alternative ways to go to work, the opportunity to work in the manner, industry, and area of expertise they choose, while building their resume and an impressive and specialized skill set in the process. Through temporary positions, many professionals are afforded the ideal job situation, as they are able to move with ease from one work opportunity to another.

What's your opinion of temporary work? Would you consider working in this capacity?