Employed, un-employed, under-employed, over-employed, self-employed - these statuses have been about the "what" of employment and who is considered in these classifications. What about the "where" of employment?
Many years ago and certainly before it was named or vogue, I was a virtual-employee and also managed virtual-employees. I guess a common colloquialism might be employees that "wore fuzzy slippers" - connoting a person who needs only roll-out-of-bed to their home office/desk. I can honestly say that with very minor exception I was usually dressed in some form of "business casual or casual" every day I worked from home.
With this "fuzzy slipper" connotation often came ideas that employees working from home, watched TV, did laundry, ate bon-bons, etc. The thought was that there couldn't be real productivity or accountability from this scenario. But entrepreneurial folks will tell you that the ability to save on the overhead of an office might be the key to getting a business started and back in the 90s companies like IBM were exploring this model as a means to save on overhead, but also to avoid the constraints of geography.
Maynard Webb, CEO of LiveOps, a call-center services company http://www.liveops.com/ has built an entire profit model on the idea that creating a workforce that is completely flexible to the needs of its clients is key to growth and success. LiveOps employs more than 20,000 operators nationwide - these operators (call-center agents) are contractors that work from home, selecting their clients and work slots in blocks as small as 30 minutes. Now this may be more plausible in the call-center occupation as it is materially a job that can be done from anywhere as long as the skills of service match the needs of the clients. That said, there are any number of other occupations that this model might serve.
My own experience was a little different than the LiveOps example - I was an executive at a very large Fortune 500 company and also managed virtual (at home) employees across the country. We were all employees (W-2) and not contractors, but the premise of the way we worked was much the same. It didn't matter where we were, we were servicing clients everywhere and they didn't much care where we reported everyday as long as we were with them when they needed us.
Some similar companies that use a virtual service model - mostly in the IT space and often using freelancers are ODesk http://www.odesk.com/ and Elance http://www.elance.com/p/landing/buyerA5.html. These and LiveOps along with other models are based on a "supply-chain" model - a "just-in-time" concept of sorts. It makes sense.
So here's my question. Naysayers would probably suggest that there might be risks associated with the virtual-employee model - how do you ensure productivity, quality and such? The fact of the matter is that these are tangible/measurable aspects of work. It simply takes managing performance by results rather than by attendance and effort. What's the fear and is the world (and by world here I mean the U.S.) ready for a full-on virtual-employee model (where the work supports it)?
Give it some thought - what do you already think about virtual-employees and does what you've read here shift that thinking in some way?
I personally loved being a virtual-employee! It was hard at times to stay motivated and focused. There was an aspect of isolation I dealt with at times. Much to the contrary of the typical connotation of bon-bon eating, I often didn't stop for lunch and there were countless times that I lost complete track of time - ending my Fridays after 7:00pm. There were two true draw-backs for me: 1.) my work was ALWAYS there and it felt like I was being a slacker if I didn't attend to things immediately. (Maybe that's an over-responsibility factor of wanting others to KNOW I was "really” working) 2.) my family and friends often thought I had all the time in the world on my hands - wasn't I free to do as I pleased, when I pleased? Couldn't I just stop anytime to finish the chores, pick up the dry-cleaning and generally meet the needs of others?
If you are un or under-employed or maybe if you feel over-employed and are looking for an alternative way to do good work in the future, consider the "where" of your employment situation!
People want to help you, but you have to tell them how! Like the Yellow Brick Road, job search is scary, uncertain and long, but there are people along the way who can help!
You can do this!