Putting freelance workers front and center

David Cross*, Jérôme Sulbout, Francois Pichault, Tui McKeown, Na Fu, Andrew Burke, Anastasia Kulichyova, Neharika Vohra, Chayanika Bhayana, Yue Sun, Frederic Naedenoen, Anne Keegan, Grégory Jemine, Jos Akkermans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Freelance and self-employed workers are, arguably, older than employment itself. They have long been an integral part of the global workforce, yet considered as contingent, transitory or peripheral workers in organisations (Bidwell, 2009). Recently, the gig-economy has slowly redefined that vision, and has brought this way of work (back) into the public and academic consciousness (Keegan & Meijerink, 2022). Freelance and self-employed workers do core work of vital organisational importance, and contribute billions to national economies. Organisations that utilise freelancers are shown to be more productive and deliver greater value in a synergistic way that creates jobs rather than substitutes (Cross & Swart, 2022; Meijerink & Keegan, 2019). Nevertheless, how to manage, include, and promote good freelancing is something of a mystery. These workers are often ignored, neglected, or hidden from organisational management practices and policies, despite their valuable talent (McKeown & Pichault, 2021), as they fall through regulatory and conceptual cracks. Employees are seen to take precedence in organisations and in our conceptual approaches such that alternative ways of working such as freelancing are formally excluded (Sulbout et al., 2022), in contradiction with their substantive support needs (van den Groenendaal et al., 2022). We see this as problematic for the relevance of our theory, for the practice of good (HR) management and good self-employment. There is not just a business case to do this but a moral and ethical case (Cross & Swart, 2022). This symposium aims to bring these workers back to the front and centre by exploring how they can be managed, integrated, and utilised to the best effect by organisations. We further aim to examine how our traditional conceptualisations can be updated and adapted to ensure that these relationships are mutually beneficial; maintaining freedom and autonomy as part of a wider total workforce strategy management, yet ensuring that they are contributing to individual, organisational, and societal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2023
Event83rd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2023 - Boston, United States
Duration: 04 Aug 202308 Aug 2023


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