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A decade or two ago, the term “temp” might have conjured up many negative associations. Temps battled feelings of being treated like second-rate citizens of the workplace, while companies viewed them as easily replaceable. They simply filled a hole in the company for as long as the company needed — often without benefits or paid time off.

But fortunately, in the words of Bob Dylan, times they are a-changin’. With the perfect storm consisting of a recovering economy, advances in technology, and a rising workforce, it’s helpful to consider how temping has evolved over the years.

Welcome to the Gig Economy

No longer considered a dirty word in the business place, temping has become a viable alternative to traditional American careers — largely due to the growing gig economy that embraces part-time work, freelancing, and temping. According to a recent report, over 35 percent of the American workforce considers themselves “gig workers,” and they’re not limited to companies like Uber and Postmates. In fact, even giants like Google have acknowledged the gig market by releasing statistics showing that over half of their global team is comprised of temps and independent contractors.

The rising millenial and gen-z workforce highly values work-life balance, even at the expense of sacrificing traditional career paths. As the workforce continues to morph, the new gig economy will help in erasing the stigma long overshadowing temps in the workplace while simultaneously providing more temping opportunities.

Doorway to Hands-On Experience

In an age of crippling student debt, temping provides the hands-on experience that college courses lack. The practical experience gained through temping gives individuals a chance to shine in the workplace, and perhaps even catch the attention of upper management to secure a more permanent opportunity. Temping also gives companies a risk-free look at potential employees while grooming them for long-term positions.

Protections for Temp Staffers

Temps enjoy benefits and protections that independent contractors and other gig workers don’t have. Most temp workers are entitled to federal protections through their staffing agencies, such as minimum wage, overtime, and sometimes health insurance. Google even announced that their U.S.-based temporary workers will be eligible for comprehensive healthcare benefits like paid sick and parental leave by 2022. It’s likely that benefits and protections for temps will continue to grow with the gig economy in coming years.

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Temping isn’t for everyone, but it certainly has come a long way from the 1950s Kelly Girls. Working as a temp is a great way to get your foot in the door of your dream employer, gain real-world experience in a specific industry, and maintain a level of balance that so many Americans workers chase.

Culture 08.21.19