How to plan for the hidden headcount in your workplace

October 21, 2015 Laura McDaniel

With the increase of independent contractors, companies are now having to plan for some there-again, gone-again employees. Bernice Boucher, of JLL and Real Views explore how to manage your fluctuating workforce.

The call comes in on a Monday morning. Twenty-five people will be descending on the office for a project that kicks off in a week. They all need a place to sit. They all need a place to connect to the network. And they all will be there for two months.

Scenes like this are playing out in offices across the country more frequently now. The cause can be largely attributed to a rapid acceleration of the use of contingent workers. Whereas 93 percent of employees were either full- and part-time in 1995, contingent workers now make up a quarter of the total workforce. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of these independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, seasonal workers and on-call workers will jump by another 20 percent in the next five years. In fifteen years, more than half of the workforce could be contingent workers.

“There’s obvious benefits to an on-demand workforce,” says Bernice Boucher, JLL’s Managing Director of Workplace Strategy. “It’s good for the balance sheet. You’re more flexible. Some younger workers even prefer the freedom of being part of the just-in-time workforce. But there’s also an obvious challenge for corporate real estate teams. I view it as managing a ‘hidden headcount.’”

Predicting the unpredictable

Certain industries have long relied on contract labor to fill in gaps in finance, human resources, information technology and other functional areas. The banking and technology sectors have grappled with sudden staffing fluctuations for years. But within the past five years, the trend has spread and gained significant momentum.

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