WORK FROM HOME: SIN OR BOON

A work-at-home scheme is a get-rich-quick scam in which a victim is lured by an offer to be employed at home, very often doing some simple task in a minimal amount of time with a large amount of income that far exceeds the market rate for the type of work. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme, or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented. Work-at-home schemes have been around for decades, with the classic “envelope stuffing” scam originating in the United States during the Depression in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In this scam, the worker is offered entry to a scheme where they can earn $2 for every envelope they fill. After paying a small $2 fee to join the scheme, the victim is sent a flyer template for the self-same work-from-home scheme, and instructed to post these advertisements around their local area – the victim is simply “stuffing envelopes” with flyer templates that perpetuate the scheme. Originally found as printed adverts in newspapers and magazines, variants of this scam have expanded into more modern media, such as television and radio adverts, and forum posts on the Internet.

In some countries, law enforcement agencies work to fight work-at-home schemes. In 2006, the United States Federal Trade Commission established Project False Hopes, a federal and state law enforcement sweep that targets bogus business opportunity and work at home scams. The crackdown involved more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in eleven states.

Legitimate home-based business and telecommuting opportunities do exist, and many people do their jobs in the comfort of their own homes, but anyone seeking such an employment opportunity can be scammed by accepting a home employment offer. A 2007 report in the United States suggested that about 97% of work-at-home offers were scams. Many legitimate jobs at home require some form of post-high-school education, such as a college degree or certificate, or trade school, and some experience in the field in an office or other supervised setting. Additionally, many legitimate at-home jobs are not like those in schemes are portrayed to be, as they are often performed at least some of the time in the company’s office, require more self discipline than a traditional job, and have a higher risk of firing.

In the wake of the novel corona virus pandemic, work at home schemes, as well as victims affected by such schemes, have become extremely common.

Some advertisements offer legitimate forms of work that really do exist, but exaggerate the salary and understate the effort that will have to be put into the job, or exaggerate the amount of work that will be available. Many such ads do not even specify the type of work that will be performed. Some similar schemes do not advertise work that would be performed at home, but may instead offer occasional, sporadic work away from home for large payments, paired with a lot of free time. Some common offers fitting this description are acting as extrasmystery shopping (which in reality requires hard work, is paid close to minimum wage, and most importantly, does not require an up-front fee to join) and working as a nanny.


DISADVANTAGES

 

1.A LACK OF COMMUNITY AND DIFFERENCES IN CULTURE

Working independently with just a computer screen to keep you company is vastly different from the hustle and bustle of an office. When you hire remote workers, you can’t just pull them into a quick meeting (which some would argue is a good thing, since meetings waste time), or stop by their desks to see how work is going. There’s going to be some loss in camaraderie since you won’t see your team face-to-face every day.

Not only is the lack of work culture a concern, there may be cultural barriers if you’re hiring a remote worker from another country. In some cultures, employees are expected to agree with everything their employer says. In other countries, different perspectives are encouraged.

I can use my own experience as an example for this. When I worked with a marketing agency in America, I was encouraged to voice my opinions, even if they went against our founder. When I consulted with businesses in the Philippines, a common complaint was about employees always saying “yes” to whatever their managers want (even if they couldn’t deliver).

Unique expectations arise with workers from different countries, ranging from standards for employee behaviour to communication preferences.

2. COMMUNICATION

Communication on a distributed team is a whole other ballgame. I never realized how much I took co-located colleagues for granted until there was no one beside me I could ask a quick question. Every question, every answer, every approval will be documented on a remote team. This makes for great records, but bulky loads of information to sort through.

Remote workers must balance various, almost overwhelming communication streams. There are instant messaging apps, video call software, project management tools, and of course the ever-present email. With so many channels to check, it makes sense that managers are worried about information slipping through the cracks.

3. LOW RELIABILITY AND RETENTION

Reliability is a problem for some co-located teams, but when you remove the manager’s presence things can turn catastrophic. What happens when you pay a remote worker a retainer and they never send you the work? How do you know your remote worker actually wrote that blog post instead of plagiarizing it off the Internet?

And even after you’ve taken the time to train remote workers so they are awesome, integral members of your team, what happens if they just stop answering your emails and disappear without a trace?

4. DIFFICULT TO MANAGE AND MAINTAIN ACCOUNTABILITY

The most obvious reasons distributed teams differ from co-located teams is because you cannot watch a distributed team in one physical space. That means all of the standard measures of management and performance, such as time in and out, go out the window.

Many strategies that worked for managers in the past will be impossible with a remote team. No more getting the team together after lunch for a project post-mortem, no more doing workarounds to make sure everyone is working, and no more being able to visit someone’s desk and demand their attention. Remote work could make much of traditional management practices useless.

In addition to being difficult to manage, it can be hard to keep remote workers accountable. With a completely virtual presence, it’s harder to establish ties, such as friendship and camaraderie, which encourage accountability.

5. ISSUES WITH PAYMENT AND LOGISTICS

Money, money, money. The root of a lot of headaches, from international transfers to confusing tax laws. Paying an international team is much more difficult than giving out checks or setting up direct deposit with a co-located team. You have to worry about how to send it, fees, the conversion rates of the day, and much more. What tax forms are you responsible for? How do you file benefits for international employees? A business may almost want to hire a person just to take care of processing payments for remote workers.

Then, there’re the time zones. It’s hard enough to keep track of the time in one location, so what will happen when you suddenly have to keep track of multiple time zones? What does it mean for scheduling? Don’t even get me started on deadline misinterpretation.

6. LOSS OF PRODUCTIVITY

With all the allure of a couch, mid-day naps, Netflix, virtual reality games, drum lessons, airline flight sale alerts, and whatever small distractions there is in a day, it’s no surprise that managers worry about work productivity for their employees out of the office. They are at the mercy of beckoning chores. A full pantry of things to snack on. “Quick” walks to the park, and so much more that can distract them from work. I can see how easy it would be for tasks to take longer. For example, a task that would take one hour in an office could take five hours with distractions. 

7. SECURITY CONCERNS

For remote workers and businesses that may employ them, the loss of a laptop is catastrophic. However, this is a very real concern, especially if your business deals with sensitive data. When you put something online, especially when it goes public, it’s almost impossible to take it all back. (Just ask Beyonce’s publicist, who requested this unflattering image be removed. It’s now a meme.)

Other causes of worry are data leaks and employees stealing data. Data theft by employees, both remote and co-located, may be more common than you think.

The fact is storing data and transferring money online exposes you to potential vulnerabilities. So, worrying about your data security is a good reason to want to stick to co-located offices.

ADVANTAGES

1. YOUR OFFICE CAN BE ANY KIND

You’ll probably work from home if you work remotely. But that doesn’t mean you have to have fill a corner of your living room with a clunky desk, a huge monitor, and an ugly rolling chair. You can fit your office wherever it fits in your life. I’ve heard about a remote worker who uses her kitchen breakfast bar as a standing desk (all those health benefits with no investment!) and one who converted part of her bedroom closet into a “hidden” office so she can just shut her work away at the end of the day.

2. YOUR OFFICE CAN BE ANYWHERE—AND I MEAN ANYWHERE!

And you’re not tied to your home, either. That doesn’t mean you’re only other location will be the coffee shop around the corner: You can take care of your job while travelling (passengers only if you’re in the car, please!), enjoying the great outdoors (thanks to long laptop battery life and tethering to your phone), or even listening to your favourite band at a live concert (a tested and true location of a remote customer service manager I know who’s a die-hard country music fan).

3. YOU’LL SAVE MONEY

Of course you’ll see an immediate difference in your bank account when you don’t need to bear the costs of commuting. But you’ll also find savings in other areas. You won’t have to force yourself into a suit and polished shoes anymore if that’s not your style—no more separate wardrobes for work and for the rest of your life! And you can also save on food costs since you’ll easily be able to whip up your own lunch and coffee if you work from home.

4. YOUR SCHEDULE CAN BE YOUR OWN

A lot of the work that can be done remotely nowadays can also be done on a flexible schedule. For example, if you’re a web developer or a content creator, you can most likely do your coding or writing whenever it suits you as long as you meet your deadlines. So, night owls, rejoice! You can still put in your eight hours without starting at 8 AM.

If you do need to work specific hours, you’re sure to still have some break time—time you can use however you’d like! Even if you have just 10 minutes, you can do something that just wouldn’t be possible in a traditional office: bust those samba moves, play a few tunes on your guitar, or take a refreshing power nap. You’re guaranteed to come back feeling more refreshed than you would after 10 minutes at your desk surfing Facebook.

5. YOU CAN LEARN MORE AND BECOME MORE INDEPENDENT

Because you don’t have colleagues just a few feet away or a tech team one floor down, you’ll find yourself developing the skill of looking for your own answers and becoming more proactive to find what you need on your own. Of course you can still ask questions and get help if you need to. But, a lot of the time, you can do a Google search download a free guide, or check out your company’s wiki to find the answer yourself just as quickly.

And you’ll also end up with some skills simply because you need them to work well remotely. For example, you’ll probably notice that you’re writing more clear and concise emails and being more sensitive to your team’s different schedules out of necessity once you’ve worked remotely for a while. Not bad things to be good at!

6. YOU CAN ACTUALLY HAVE ENJOYABLE AND EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

I bet you don’t know anyone who enjoys meetings. (No amount of free coffee and donuts can make up for having to sit in a stuffy conference room next to the pen-clicking guy from sales!) When you work remotely, you’ll not only be able to choose your breakfast and your seat, but you can also be much more effective. With just a few clicks, you can have 10 people on a video call that’ll probably last just 15 minutes instead of 45. And you can use the chat function in the video call to quickly share docs (forget making copies or having everyone search their emails) or to add important comments without interrupting anyone.

7. YOU CAN KEEP IN TOUCH MORE EASILY—AND MAYBE HAVE SOME FUN DOING IT!

Most people are afraid that they’ll be lonely or left out when they work remotely. But the opposite is usually true, as there’s a huge range of communication tools for remote workers available now. Some will even let you have a little fun together with features like emojis, chat room “bots,” or silly effects in video chats. With them, you can celebrate a colleague’s birthday by putting on a virtual top hat and monocle in your Google Hangout instead of suffering through an out-of-tune round of “Happy Birthday” and a grocery store cake!