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Archive for October, 2010

Freelancin’

A few years ago, all the buzz in professional HR circles was about flexible work options. The popular opinion was that there was no way we were going to be able to hire Gen Y employees without offering time banks, telecommuting, leave for every conceivable purpose and flexible hours.

I wish. Sorry, but it turns out Gen Y needs to eat just like the rest of us. Most employers have continued on offering the same benefits menu, tweaked slightly to brand themselves as family friendly employers. A little bit of paid maternity leave here, flexitime there, and hey presto! We support work life balance.

The city I call home has an employment rate sitting about 3%. Pretty low in anyone’s estimation. But the number of positions advertised that are truly flexible – in that they can accommodate part time hours, non-traditional working hours or working from home – are few and far between. So here’s me, a highly qualified and experienced HR professional, thinking about returning to the workforce. But I know there’s little hope of finding a salaried job that will accommodate my family responsibilities, so at first I resigned myself to waiting until Little Pearl starts school before I try and hack my way back into the professional jungle.

On the one hand, I understand some of the reasons why working from home is not a popular choice for employers. Not every job can be done on that basis – in fact, many jobs are not suitable. Not every employee works well without supervision. I’m a supporter of flexible work options – offered part time work and flexible hours – but even I baulked at allowing more than the occasional day of telecommuting. The secret of managing a telecommuting workforce is selecting the right people – easier said than done.

On the other hand, my solution to the problem was to set up my own business (hence my extended absence from blogging, writing critique groups and pretty much every other social outlet over the last month).

People who would never have considered employing someone working from home are quite happy to contract with me – to say, this is the final product I want, and how you deliver it is up to you. As an independent contractor, the risk moves from the employer to me – if I don’t perform, I don’t get paid, and I don’t get contracted again. But – and it’s a big but – I can choose when and where I perform the work, as long as it’s done by deadline.

Sounds pretty good to me.

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