Upwork’s 2023 Impact: Transforming Work, Together

Elisabeth Hutchinson
Elisabeth Hutchinson
April 10, 2024
April 10, 2024
Upwork’s 2023 Impact: Transforming Work, Together

2023 was marked by groundbreaking technological advancements, particularly in the field of generative AI. Anchored in our human-centered approach, the Upwork platform has become a catalyst for this transformation, providing a bridge between forward-thinking companies and independent professionals eager to leverage their skills in a flexible, dynamic environment.

As Hayden Brown, our President and CEO, reflects: "From its founding, Upwork has sought to understand the conditions and forces that shape work, and to reinvent it for the benefit of all involved… Now more than ever, there is unprecedented alignment between the cultural moment and our mission and vision, presenting an incredible opportunity to bring talent and tech together to unlock human potential and create a world of work that works for everyone."

As we unveil our 2023 Impact Report, we invite you on a journey through the past year. This report is a celebration of our collective achievements, our advancements in technology and adaptability, and our unwavering dedication to creating a work marketplace that is as inclusive as it is innovative.

Innovating the world’s work marketplace

From launching new product features to streamlining existing tools, last year we made our platform more efficient, intuitive, and accessible.

We enhanced productivity and collaboration through strategic partnerships like our collaboration with Jasper, which offers freelancers access to cutting-edge content creation tools. We’ve also incorporated technological advancements like Upwork Chat Pro, a GPT-4 powered app that gives freelancers contextualized advice to efficiently manage projects from start to finish. And our AI Services hub brings AI-related work, skills, and tools together into a single destination.

Guiding workforce transformation

In line with our commitment to provide our customers with cutting-edge solutions, we introduced the Upwork Research Institute in November 2023. This initiative is central to our efforts to offer actionable insights that empower both businesses and independent professionals to navigate and thrive in the future of work.

One of the Institute's pivotal contributions was the “Work Innovators” report which delves into the practices of companies that are leading the charge in adopting flexible, forward-thinking work models. Another Upwork research report, “Freelance Forward,” shines a light on the expanding freelance workforce. In 2023, this survey revealed that an astounding 38% of the U.S. workforce engaged in freelance work, contributing $1.3 trillion to the economy. The data also reinforces that professionals turn to freelancing for greater flexibility, autonomy, and control of their careers.

Upwork is rethinking not only how work gets done, but also how it relates to our collective wellbeing. We created our Global Work Principles in 2023 to better articulate how we want our work marketplace to support the long-term success of our community:

  • We believe work should fit into our lives, not the other way around
  • We believe in the transformative power of a global workforce
  • We believe in 21st-century skills and knowledge work
  • We believe everyone should have equal access to opportunity
  • We believe it should be easier to be an entrepreneur
  • We believe remote work and freelancing should build prosperity

In December 2023, we surveyed over 30,000 freelancers on Upwork to understand how we're supporting these principles and how working on the platform has impacted their outlook on work and professional success. 90% of respondents agreed that Upwork is creating economic opportunity, while over 82% agreed that finding work on Upwork has increased their quality of life.

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Powering economic opportunities

In 2023, Upwork significantly enhanced the pathway for freelancers to elevate their independent careers. At the heart of these efforts is the Upwork Academy, an interactive suite of courses, tools, and resources designed to support freelancers in expanding their businesses and honing their skills. Complementing this initiative, we launched the Education Marketplace in July, providing freelancers with educational content from platforms such as Coursera and Udemy.

Additionally, we expanded Upwork's support for freelancers through a personalized coaching program, where freelancers receive tailored advice from seasoned professionals. This initiative, coupled with our community events and workshops, cultivated a vibrant ecosystem for knowledge exchange and networking.

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Investing in communities worldwide

In an effort to close the global opportunity gap, The Upwork Foundation funds initiatives that connect marginalized communities with life-sustaining knowledge work. Since 2018, The Upwork Foundation has directed more than $4.6 million to 46 nonprofits dedicated to building inclusive economic opportunities around the globe. Last year the foundation awarded $1.27 million to 13 nonprofits that support inclusive workforce reentry for people impacted by incarceration, caretaking responsibilities, military service, or other life events.

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In 2023, Upwork deepened our commitment to fostering community engagement in a distributed workforce through The Upwork Foundation’s inaugural Kiva Lending Challenge, a collaborative venture with Kiva, a nonprofit that empowers underserved entrepreneurs and small businesses globally with essential financial support. This initiative resonated strongly with our mission, mobilizing Upwork’s employees and our flexible workforce to lend over $50,000 to 2,611 borrowers, 88% of whom were female borrowers, across 53 countries.

Fostering team member engagement and wellbeing

Upwork’s team, composed of employees across 20 U.S. states and independent talent from over 90 countries, are united by a strong sense of purpose despite being continents apart.

To guide our team members’ day-to-day decision-making, inform how they collaborate from afar, and foster a shared culture, we introduced updated values and working principles in 2023. Developed with strong input from leaders across Upwork, these core tenets are not merely a reflection of who we are, they also articulate who we want to be, how we collaborate, and how we achieve our goals.

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Diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIBs) are integral to Upwork's corporate culture. In our ongoing commitment to fostering these values, we've recently integrated new tools, including Textio Lift, SeekOut, and LeaderFactor, to further support equitable performance assessments, build a diverse team, and support psychological safety.

We further foster authenticity, inclusivity, and collaboration through two of our flagship DIBs programs, GlowUp and Our Place. GlowUP gatherings provide forums for Upwork’s leaders of color to connect, strengthen relationships, and grow their leadership capabilities. Similarly, Our Place serves as a vibrant virtual hub for Upwork’s most senior Black women employees and eligible members of our flexible workforce to build camaraderie and connection.

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Building a more sustainable future of work

As a global marketplace that enables remote work for people around the world, Upwork helps make work more sustainable by reducing emissions related to commuting and business travel. We’re proud to be an example for others, demonstrating how a remote-first company can mitigate its contributions to climate change.

In 2023, we kept our Scope 1 and 2 market-based emissions to just 18 metric tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to the emissions of roughly 2.8 average U.S. households. We also matched 100% of our electricity consumption, both in our offices and in our team’s remote work, with carbon-free electricity, and we recycled or donated 100% of our e-waste.

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Looking forward to continued impact

In 2024 and beyond, we will continue our focus on harnessing cutting-edge technology to empower professionals to do their best work. Our human-centered approach will continue to define everything we do, ensuring we keep innovating our platform and generating economic opportunities for our customers the world over.

All of us at Upwork are immensely proud of what we accomplished in 2023, and we’re excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Thank you for joining us on this journey to transform work, together.

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Elisabeth Hutchinson
Director of Corporate Communications

Elisabeth Hutchinson is Director of Corporate Communications at Upwork. An accomplished marketing and communications professional, she has more than a decade of experience increasing awareness, elevating brand reputation, and driving business growth for both high-growth public tech companies and global nonprofit organizations. Elisabeth holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master's in Public Administration from San Jose State University.

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