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Legitimate Home-Based Jobs Go Begging
All too often, legitimate employers of home-based workers have trouble
filling openings. In a time of raging unemployment, exhausting commutes
and ecologic distress, this borders on the perverse. Yet we see it time
and again. Why?
Therein lines a tale. Here are just a few strands from a much larger story.
EXAMPLE: HOME-BASED CUSTOMER SERVICE AGENTS
Back in the late 1990s, companies began to realize that they could
bring their call center jobs back to the U.S. if they used home-based
agents. This would address the customer backlash against offshore
support and the political negative of "sending jobs overseas." The
homeshoring movement was born.
The movement grew quickly as surveys repeatedly showed the advantages
of home-based staffing — higher productivity (people liked
working from home), less employee turnover (ditto), and
dramatically-reduced real estate costs, just to name a few. Companies
could also recruit nationally as opposed to locally, widening the
applicant pool exponentially.
The employer pool grew, too. American Express, 1-800-FLOWERS, U-Haul,
JetBlue, Home Shopping Network and over 80 more (see our list at
http://bit.ly/hbmtOc) soon joined the fray. "Virtual call centers" like
VIPdesk, Arise, LiveOps, Convergys and many more also began to hire
tens of thousands of home-based agents.
Almost every company we've named is actively seeking applicants. But
the homeshoring movement — and telework generally — is like
a plant in a rubber pot, growing faster than the pot can expand. The
applicant pool, though large, should be much bigger than it is.
Companies have trouble finding qualified job seekers.
The scammers have scared off millions of applicants. Our research shows
a 60 to 1 "scam ratio" among work-at-home ads online. The authorities
are overwhelmed. Warnings of scams abound, but con men change their
games. People don't know if a work-at-home job lead is good or bad, and
assume the worst.
Legitimate jobs get much less publicity than scams.
(With ad-supported media, it makes sense. "America's Most Wanted" will
always get better ratings than "America's Best-Behaved.") The media
spotlights the crime — serving as a warning function, too, of
course — and gives scams more exposure than legitimate leads.
Telework has almost no political or public-sector support. The
lobbyists don't like it (just consider the ramifications of a
home-centric as opposed to a car-centric society), which pretty much
seals the deal.
THE CASE OF ABOUT.COM
Owned by the New York Times Company, About.com has been hiring
home-based experts for years. Known as "Guides," these specialists, who
number in the hundreds, maintain pages devoted to their fields and are
paid per article and by page views.
Over the years, in our virtual-career trainings and publications, we've
often mentioned About.com openings, and we check them regularly. Yet
many "Guide" positions, which now include topics in Spanish, remain
unfilled — despite record unemployment — for extended
periods of time.
Some might attribute this to factors such as compensation, workload,
copyright or some other variable, and these may play a role. But based
on what we've seen in other telework sectors, we suspect that the
largest factor is simply a lack of awareness of these openings among
the general public.
Telework will probably be a "grass-roots" phenomenon, growing from
bottom to top, with help from the companies who want and need to make
it succeed and passionate advocates who understand its potential.
In the meantime, it could use at least three things: Foxhound
development, to reduce the foxes (scammers) in the henhouse; more buzz
("Forward this article!"); and, of course, political support.
After all, aren't all politicians working remotely from their employers?
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are leaders in the work-at-home
movement and advocates of de-rat-raced living. Their latest book is
"Work at Home Now," a guide to finding home-based jobs. They offer
additional guidance on finding home-based work at
www.RatRaceRebellion.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate
writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at
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