Covid-19-induced lockdowns may result in corporate exodus

Survey finds skilled professionals are eager to become independent contractors.

Skilled professionals who have worked from home during Covid-19-induced lockdowns are reluctant to return to pre-pandemic workplace environments. This is according to an Outsized survey of skilled professionals which found that 81.5 percent are considering going freelance.

The survey respondents were from diverse fields, including accounting, data analysis, human resources and IT, hold university degrees, and have a minimum five years of experience.

A quarter say they are already in the process of making the change to independent contractor, with 37 percent seeing it happening in the short term and 10 percent in the long term.

Factors fuelling the desire to market their skills independently include the potential to earn more money, flexible working hours, broader experience and new skills, and taking more control for themselves.

The top attraction for quitting the corporate world is the ability to enjoy a better work-life balance, followed by the potential to earn more, to choose the work they do, to have more control over their destiny, and to enhance their CV.

Financial instability, loss of corporate pension and medical aid, and administration related to self-employment count as the practical factors that are of concern, while taking on such a dramatic change counts as a top fear.

In a question asking whether they would be more likely to resign in the near future if Outsized could guarantee them a six-month contract, 60 percent said yes, 31 percent said it would depend on how good the job on offer was, and six percent said they would feel more confident with a year of guaranteed work. Only three percent would still hesitate even if work was guaranteed.

The findings suggest that fresh opportunities rather than actual dissatisfaction with their current jobs are driving this potential corporate exodus. But it still poses a significant threat to companies in the form of a brain-drain, adding to the damage already done by the Covid-19 lockdowns, according to Outsized South Africa managing director Johann van Niekerk.

He added, if numerous professionals follow through on their dream of independence, that will create a large and flexible pool for companies to draw on. And as companies hire freelancers rather than employ permanent staff, more jobs will become available for those professionals who take the plunge, so supply and demand could balance.

Outsized is a provider of on-demand freelancers and independent consultants to the financial services and management consulting industries in South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.