The Gig economy & Group dynamics

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, Employee Engagement, Employee Selection, General Psychology, Organizational Culture, Talent Management, Team Effectiveness

The Gig Economy has been placed on number #4 on the Society of Industrial &  Organizational Psychology’s (SIOP) Top 10 Workplace Trends. Internet, the sophistication of digital tools, shift in the nature of career aspirations, values, etc. of the Millennials & Gen Z, people not being bound by geographic locations are some factors leading to this boom of the gig economy. The gig economy, without any doubt, has numerous benefits to offer, to both the parties involved – flexibility & autonomy to the gig workers and time & cost-effectiveness for the organizations, to name a few. However, as is the case with any other emerging trend,  the gig economy is not without cons and this article aims to explore one such aspect impacted by the gig economy: Group dynamics.

Let us first try to understand some features of groups based on various definitions. The members of a group are interdependent with respect to shared goals & communicate with each other. There is also a sense of shared identity i.e. two or more individuals possessing a  common social identification & whose existence as a group is recognized by a third party e.g. employees of ABC company or members of XYZ team within ABC company. Last but not least is the concept of ‘psychological significance’ which refers to the psychological awareness of other members in the group & the perception of themselves to be in a group. In this regard, the Thomas theorem which states that “If men define situations as real they are real in their consequences” could be applied to the context of group dynamics.

Keeping the above features in mind, it seems natural that the gig workers or freelancers may sometimes not feel connected to the other members working on a project given their temporary/remote status. The dynamics between the full-time employees & freelancers are bound to differ as to the likely result of the low ‘psychological significance’ mentioned above.  Licked et al. (2000) studied when people see other people as group members or individuals;  the findings suggest that people are more likely to consider a bunch of people a group when it is marked by strong bonds and frequent interactions. As the freelancers would have interactions limited majorly to the work/project with the team members, they are not likely to bond with the other members beyond the job at hand.

Additionally, some other factors that contribute to the creation of a strong team bond such as trust and accountability require tremendous time & effort to develop. Development of trust can be difficult enough even for teams with opportunities to have regular, face-to-face interactions. Therefore, the challenge increases exponentially for team members working as part-time gig workers or freelancers. Taking all these factors into consideration, the gig  workers seem to be at a greater risk of social isolation & of being hit by the “loneliness epidemic”

Let us then have a look at some best practices & suggestions to effectively involve the freelancers in the organizational groups & build positive group dynamics.

Gig workers need to be made to feel welcome; after the onboarding of a gig worker, an email can be sent to all employees to identify the new member’s role and how he/she will benefit the business as a whole. It would also be a good practice to show the on-site gig workers around your office so they have an opportunity to meet the permanent staff members. For remote gig workers, connecting with the other employees should be planned similarly. Proper introductions can go a long way even though they appear to be very simple & basic.

Another good practice that will prove to be a catalyst in combating the challenge of ‘shared identity would be to have an extensive introduction of the organization’s values & goals to the freelancers to communicate to them what the organization believes in. It can help in giving them a focus and a greater sense of purpose and engagement while reinforcing a  company’s broader goals and feeding into everyday decisions and work. The Inspirant Group conducted an All Hands meeting with the gig workers where they shared the company vision and how everyone fits into it. They flew in contractors who lived out of state, paid everyone for a full day’s work, and spent a day having important discussions as well as having team-building activities.

With virtual teams or hybrid workplaces gradually taking shape as new normal in quite a few sectors, the impact on group dynamics is spreading even into the traditional workforce, but that’s for another article.

As per a report by ASSOCHAM, India’s gig sector is expected to increase to US$455 billion at a CAGR of 17% by 2024 and has the potential to expand at least 2x the pre-pandemic estimates. It is imperative that organizations take note of this likely influx of gig workers & put into place practices that would help deal with the challenges effectively & in turn lead to sustainable work dynamics & growth.



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About the author:

Ms. Radha Joshi

M.A. in Psychology (Industrial & Organizational) from Dept. of Psychology, University of Mumbai, Kalina

A Psychology & Language enthusiast with an immense interest in the field of Learning & Development. Currently working as an Executive – Learning & Development at Birlasoft Ltd. and pursuing PG Diploma Training & Development from the Indian Society for Training & Development. Mumbai University.