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The desire for a more manageable work-life balance has been on the rise in the last decade.

The days of employees simply working their Monday through Friday, 9-5 are vanishing. This desire for control over time has led to two trends in the workforce: freelancers and the democratization of the workplace.

The freelance movement

The first trend is the rise in the number of workers who are choosing to become freelancers, over working in a traditional office. Forbes notes that in 2014 an estimated 34% of the workforce in America was working freelance – this is expected to grow to 50% by 2020. Freelancers enjoy the flexibility of choosing projects and companies to work for, control over the hours they work, and the benefits of working from a shared office space with other freelancers.

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Democratization of the workplace

Along with the rise of the freelance movement, we also see the emerging trend of the democratization of the workplace. From large corporations to small start-ups, companies are recognizing the need for employees to have more flexible hours and work locations, and that they can greatly benefit from allowing their employees this freedom. For example, employees may choose to begin their days earlier or later based on their personal schedules and preferences.

International companies especially benefit from having employees start their day earlier or later in order to connect with other employees in different time zones. For those who don’t work at the headquarters, this allows them to communicate more effectively with those that do and enable them to be a part of the team.

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By allowing employees a flexible schedule, companies can also increase retention as well as efficiency. If employees work the hours where they are the most productive and focused, it allows them to accomplish more in less time. Working remotely can also increase efficiency as it eliminates distractions and interruptions caused by a ‘drive-by’ (another employee or manager coming by a desk for something non-urgent).

Advances in technology have made remote work increasingly easier. Employees can join in video conference calls from anywhere in the world. Tools like Slack make chatting and sharing documents for project teams simple. Other collaboration software like Confluence and Google Docs allow team members to edit the same document, eliminating confusion caused by emailing out different versions. Time tracking tools like FreshBooks allow employees to log their hours for individual projects, and can also help save companies money as freelancers only bill for work completed.

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With the increased demand for a work-life balance, and the shift to a more mobile workforce, many companies are adapting by hiring freelancers and providing flexible hours and work environments. As this trend continues to grow, other companies will need to consider adopting these options as well if they want to attract and retain employees.