Tone deaf job posts in a COVID-19 working world
“Please be mindful when submitting your expected pay rate. The economy is down and so many individuals are out of work, including myself. Expecting a huge payment for articles at this time isn’t negotiable.”
This is how a six-paragraph job description ended from an Upwork job invitation link. I read the lengthy description again, perplexed by why I was invited to this job that didn’t match my minimum (and public) salary requirements. But what boggled my mind more is what always perplexes me with freelance worker descriptions. There is an uncomfortable amount of clients on gig economy websites that have a laundry list of rules to follow and only want expert-level work for beginner-to-intermediate level pay. Even stranger, they always reach out to top-rated freelancers.
At the risk of stating an overly used statement, “You get what you pay for.” Asking someone to do top-notch work for mediocre payment agreements is just not fair to the freelancer — whether there was a worldwide health outbreak happening or not. Small businesses and large corporations too often show the dividing line between greed (by taking advantage of a massive unemployment scale) and fair pay (what you would expect to receive for the level of work you’re asking for). There was a similar trend going on during the 2008 unemployment crash, but the technology work force has gotten even stronger in the past 12 years. In a COVID-19 working world, there are millions who are looking for their next gig or full-time employment. Hiring managers know it, too, and a select few are taking too much advantage of it.
In addition to a troubling trend between pay rates between clients and freelancers, there’s another odd trend going on with recent posts on gig economy websites. Companies have returned to asking freelancers to complete jobs locally.
Part of the appeal of gig websites is being able to have more flexibility and not working a 9–5 job. Whether it’s for a better work-life balance, new parents, little interest in office politics or disability concerns, gig work (even on a full-time basis) is one of the most appealing parts of work-from-home websites. If you’re lucky, your gig assignments fight off all the frustrations of Corporate America. But in a world where we’re only two weeks removed from a multi-state lockdown (give or take a few states who ignored it), asking non-essential freelancers to physically come into an office is just plain dangerous.
Interestingly, another Upwork invite arrived in my email three hours before the “huge payment” invitation. In this case, it was geared toward Chicago writers who are familiar with Chicago night culture, restaurants, music and lifestyles. Even our own Governor J.B. Pritzker is socially isolating right now. Not only is it completely unnecessary to physically show up to an office to write about local travel spots outside of this office, but who in their right mind is hanging out at night clubs or sitting in restaurants right now? In Amsterdam, restaurant goers have gone as far as booking tickets for greenhouses to make absolutely sure no one sits within six feet of them. This simply isn’t a top-10 [insert city here] restaurants kind of world right now. (Coincidentally, this job posting paid the same lower-than-minimum rate.)
Recommended Read: “Restaurateurs Adapt to New Consumer Preferences”
As job goers head back to jobs that they were lucky enough to keep, and job seekers look for new employment, this is as good of a time as any for small businesses and large corporations to take into consideration the cultural change from March to May. Non-essential workers have been able to juggle their way through virtual conferences, emails, chat rooms, digital signatures and contracts, and cloud computing software to get the same jobs done that they were doing shoulder-to-shoulder in cubicles. While every employer cannot be Twitter — whose employees can work from home forever — at least consider the idea of not endangering a new crop of full-time employees (or gig workers). If they don’t have to travel to get the job done, why ask?
Business owners and hiring managers who are looking to build a team should be able to “read the room” much better than this. In a technological world where people like myself can easily do work with clients in four continents, I’m having a hard time understanding why local employees cannot. And while creating a budget that one can afford is perfectly reasonable, keep in mind (before you contact top-rated freelancers or anyone with a decent resume) that they will also have the same bills, family expenses and state of employment as you. Choose wisely.
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