Working nine to five – a job where you can leave your work behind you when you clock out of the office every afternoon – is becoming a relic of the past.
More people than ever in the UK are working two or more jobs – 320,500 self-employed people at last count, according to figures from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), seen by the BBC.
Call it what you want – a portfolio career, diversified employment, the rise of the ’millennial multi-hyphenate’ – but rather than doing one job for life, people are actively choosing to become a “slashie” (ie. actor/blogger/author/dog walker). Or so we’re told.
Some research does support the idea that multi-stranded employment is a lifestyle choice. Job recruitment app, Job Today, found that as many as a third of Brits would like to work outside their day job to pursue their passions.
But does this tell the whole story? Is the rise in people doing multiple jobs about ambition and energy – or more about people trying to put food on the table?
Self-described ‘slashie’ Emma Gannon, 29, has written a book, ‘Multi-Hyphen Method’, about people doing exactly that. She says that changing employment patterns are about both choice and necessity. “Obviously no one can fully state from the data that it is 100% a lifestyle choice or 100% the gig economy forcing people into it, because it’s somewhere in the middle,” she tells HuffPost UK.
The ease and accessibility of technology has given people greater flexibility and the opportunity to take on more work, says Gannon. But she also acknowledges that the changing nature of work is putting pressure on people to diversify their skillset to “stay employable”.
In her own case, a multi-hyphen career has made Gannon feel more, not less, secure. “There is actually a security to having multiple income streams, especially during a time where so many businesses are closing and making employees redundant,” she says. “For me, ‘insecurity’ was having a full-time job at a company that was struggling and continually making cuts.”
“This is now about people trying to patch together a livelihood from whatever means they can."”- Professor Ursula Huws.
But Ursula Huws, Professor of Labour and Globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire business school, says the rise in people working multiple jobs is a sign of the new working poor in the UK – those who have a job but still don’t make enough to pay their bills and living expenses.
“We know this isn’t an entirely new pattern. You’ve always had actors who work in McDonalds in between roles,” says Huws. “The vast majority are not doing it because one is the dream job and the other is ‘bread and butter’. This is now about people trying to patch together a livelihood from whatever means they can.”
Many people are engaged in what researchers describes as ‘involuntary part time work’ – such as a zero-hours contract – where they would like to work more hours if only they had the choice. She also highlights the problem of the current UK benefits system being incompatible with this type of work.
“Our system says you are either in work or not in work, and there is no in between. So precarious work – where you don’t know how many hours you’re getting that week [or how much money] – doesn’t fit,” says Huws. “You have to be waiting for an app on your phone to alert you that they want to go and do a shift, but this means you can’t actually be really seeking work in the way job centres would like you to be doing. You are trying to juggle two incompatible things and falling down the cracks.”
She also agrees with Gannon that technology has played a part in these changes. “People are trying to use the internet to make an income – selling stuff on eBay, crafting things to put on Etsy, trying to rent out a room on AirBnB.”
But this isn’t always about young people pursuing their dreams, says Huws. “There is evidence that a lot of millennials would love just ‘a proper job’. In their early twenties maybe they’re trying to build a profile, but as the years go by and they just want a rental agreement or mortgage they need a steady income.”