August 6, 2008
Companies to home-based independent contractors: We don't trust you!
Sue Shellenbarger had an interesting (okay, disturbing) piece in the Wall Street Journal last week. Apparently one freelance job board (you can read which one in the WSJ article) and a couple of companies employing home-based call center workers (see article for which ones) feel the need to monitor whether their independent home-based workers are actually working as opposed to, say, surfing the web or watching soap operas.
Some of the tactics being employed: Taking snapshots of freelancers' computer screens dozens of times a day. Recording the keystrokes and mouse clicks of solo workers. Taking webcam photos of freelancers at work. Requiring call center workers to schedule unpaid bathroom breaks if they need to go.
This is offensive on so many levels.
One, even traditional employers don't go this far with their onsite staffers.
Two, shouldn't a freelancer's work history, portfolio, and references speak for themselves? You'd find out pretty quickly if an independent professional wasn't getting the work done or if they were charging more than other independents in your contractor pool.
Three, just this week I had to use YouTube repeatedly to research an article on video resumes. According to the WSJ article, that would be a no-no for some companies.
Four, not all freelancers work straight through, from 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 or 7 p.m. Many have flex schedules due to creative cycles (have you ever tried to write for 8 hours straight? not productive!), families, and the fact that working from home means you get to create your own schedule. I'm pretty sure all my freelance contracts say that not only am I not an employee of the client for which I have agreed to complete the project in question, but the client also has no say in when and how I complete the work, as long as I complete it on schedule and according to specifications. Otherwise, by IRS definitions, I'd be an employee, complete with salary and benefits.
Five, scheduling potty breaks? Really? What is this, third grade? What if you just need to get up and stretch your legs, which, in case these paranoid, penny-pinching companies haven't heard, is pretty much recommended on an hourly basis by every health professional on the planet?
What do think? How broke would you have to be before you took a job with parameters like this?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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