In these days of tight budgets but no shortage of things to do, more and more companies are finding that having a flexible workforce is key. This means that having the ability to apply immediate resources to any project is paramount. But also as important, is the ability to de-staff a project quickly and without the messiness of layoffs.

While this harsh work environment seems challenging, it actually can very rewarding both professionally and monetarily and see both the employers and employees coming out winners.

The employees have the benefit of being able to work on a wide variety of disparate projects. This can yield a level of excitement unlikely to be experienced in a full time position that is usually focussed on developing deep expertise in a narrow area. The employers get the ability to quickly staff up to meet schedules and requirements and the ability to scale back just as quickly.

Of course, this flexibility – by definition – means that there is no stability and limited predictability for both employees and employers. The employees don’t know when or where they will see the next job and the employers don’t know if they will get the staff they need when they need it. While some thrive in this sort of environment, others seek the security of knowing with some degree of certainty what tomorrow brings. With enough experience with a single contractor, an employer can choose to attempt to flip the contractor from a “renter” to an “owner”. Similarly, the contractor may find the work atmosphere so enticing that settling down and getting some “equity” might be ideal.

It is a strange but mutually beneficial arrangement with each party having equal stance and in effect both having the right of first refusal in the relationship. And it may very well be the new normal in the workplace.