Recession Proof: The Quarter-Time Job

As the global economy begins to falter and the world enters a time of stagflation, the digital economy will continue to transform society by introducing the quarter-time job. 

The quarter-time job will define the next tier of remote work and lead to big changes within professional culture. But to be clear, don’t think of the quarter-time job as part-time or hourly work.

Instead, think of it as project-based work that fits the well within a society newly accustomed to remote work. It’s a contract role that means do X and get paid Y. This is “freelance work” except that it comes with different cultural norms and expectations. And these differences are what create a different work-style category.

For example, the quarter-time job is perfect for side hustle lifestyles and cultures that are blossoming throughout society in the Covid Era. 

And the quarter-time job is an ideal HR strategy for companies that need to manage costs quickly in the post-covid global economy defined by a “here we go again” moment every other month.

This employment arrangement creates mutually beneficial incentives that align the needs of two sides of the labor economy in tough times.

Quarter-time jobs will at first appear as a consequence of the great resignation in an economic downturn. Then it will accelerate the social class transformation that’s evolving within society. A new divide that’s forming between the people with location-independent incomes and location-dependent incomes.

And ultimately, the quarter-time job will become a preferred work arrangement for many people and businesses as they adapt to digital age lifestyles.

But What Exactly Is The Quarter-Time Job?

We’re all familiar with freelance work.

The contract between a business and a worker to do X and get paid Y. It’s project-based work that isn’t compensated at an hourly rate but based on the value of a job that needs to be done.

It’s a career model that aligns well with the trends of the creator economy model.

That career model generally looks like this: 

As more people participate in social media, they grow audiences around an infinite number of niche topics. Including professional topics. 

Individuals with growing audiences realize that they present an opportunity to monetize a growing network in different ways. They begin to realize that remote work is a viable work opportunity that supports many different lifestyles.

And so, they look for ways to leverage global audiences to first establish credentials via content and relationships and then leverage these credentials to earn incomes from these niche communities.

What’s The Benefit For Companies?

A partially contract-style workforce can lower the hiring costs of traditional employees. No health care, payroll tax, office space, or other HR-related expenses. (unless of course, these are part of the negotiated compensation)

It means smaller commitments and businesses can turn these relationships on or off quickly.

There is less risk for the company if the working relationship doesn’t work out.

Most importantly, the quarter-time job permits the company to tap into an emerging talent pool that is highly competent but has shifting lifestyle demands. Keep in mind, remote work provides lifestyle flexibility which is now highly desirable. It’s what large portions of society now want from their work arrangements.

And this trend at the society level is the major shift away from the freelance model. It’s not a few people looking to pick up some extra money. It’s a large chunk of the workforce that’s shifting their work preferences.

Time-based employment models will increasingly conflict with this growing segment of the workforce. So, in a sense, to remain competitive on the human resource front, companies will need to adapt by providing work opportunities that are based on projects not time worked.

Why Now?

The economy is nose-diving.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look ahead and see that we’re entering a turbulent time for businesses. 

Economic uncertainty leads to hiring freezes. Recession and stagflation lead to layoffs. Taken to an extreme, these factors can mean business closure. 

But to remain solvent, work must continue to get done.

Splitting up traditional “jobs” into project-based work assignments and leveraging the remote work economy is an opportunity to make the best out of a lousy situation.

Keep in mind that remote work has scaled across the global economy. We’re all comfortable with working remotely and onboarding new employees and business vendors remotely. And it’s a workstyle that lends itself well to the project-based workstyle.

Remote work arrangements also permit location arbitrage for businesses that need to reduce human capital expenses by finding project-based workers in geographies with lower costs of living and reduced compensation expectations. The quarter-time job will create a human resources geo arbitrage.

But quarter-time work also supports the flexibility and freedom that remote workers have become accustomed to. If workers start to work both a full-time job plus begin earning side project incomes, they may be more inclined to pursue the portfolio model of multiple income streams in the long term because it confers more freedom and flexibility of lifestyle. (No bosses).

So Now What?

Companies under pressure to fill jobs but that also have fears about economic pressures will start adapting to this new model. 

Companies Will Ask Themselves:

How can we convert some of our high-priority hiring needs into project-based opportunities?

How would we price these opportunities to get work done efficiently?

What are the things we are willing to negotiate on vs unwilling to?

What would ROI need to look like?

How can we use this strategy to reduce our cost of human capital?

What policies and frameworks should we implement to manage this type of workforce?

How will we negotiate and pay these individuals?

What if we really like working with someone?

Can we create a clear path to more work, responsibilities, and full-time opportunities?

Workers Will Ask Themselves:

What skills do I have that are marketable on a project basis?

How can I market these skills to generate additional sources of income? 

What is my asking price? What are my points of compromise?

Ex: I’m willing to take less salary for more asynchronous work – fewer meetings with more ability to work independently

How many projects can I take on at once?

At what point should I consider going solo?

How will I handle my operating expenses? (equipment, service vendors, healthcare, workspace)

How will this evolve my lifestyle?

Do I want my life to be like a solopreneur, a freelancer, or a side gig?

The Bottom Line

We’re nearing a scenario where the “quarter-time” job emerges at scale.

Why will companies shift focus towards the quarter-time job? 

Because remote work is now widely accepted and even in an uncertain economy, everyone still needs to get work done.  The quarter-time job cuts costs of onboarding, healthcare, & other benefits. It can scale well & help phase out older team members without disrupting the continuity of business.

So, here’s how it will play out in society:

This trend will emerge gradually, then suddenly as both sides of the market realize the benefits of this relationship in a stagnant economy. 

At first, it will require a few trend-setting companies to adapt to a model that permits more project-based work, then we can expect a flood of opportunities to hit the big “job boards” like Indeed and LinkedIn.

In the long run, large portions of the population will have quarter-time job opportunities that they work on a regular basis.

I’m tracking a new narrative that makes sense of society’s shift to the Digital Age. The goal: documenting how the Sovereign Individual class will emerge and giving you the facts and tools to successfully navigate digital life. I cover topics you can’t fully appreciate because you’re in the thick of it. Everything you need to know is delivered in a weekly newsletter.

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