Managing or Spying

Managing or Spying? Well, it’s the last Friday of the month, and that can only mean one thing—time to process the invoices from the freelance workers you hired. A few months ago, your company was overloaded by the amount of data processing that needed to be done. There were a few days when the entire staff, even the janitors, stayed past 11pm to read through, sort, and organize all of your clients’ account data. The work wasn’t necessarily difficult. But it was time consuming, and you hated it when your employees and managers had to take time off of other important things to get the processing done. You thought you found a perfect solution when you decided to hire some freelancers—part-time outsiders that you could contract to do all of the processing, freeing up your staff to focus on other things. What seemed to be a great solution, however, produced a few troubles of its own. It wasn’t as if the work wasn’t getting done—the freelancers actually did a pretty good job with their assignments. The problem was, though, how much time they seemed to be spending on the work. When you used to do the processing in-house, it usually took one person about 4-5 hours to go through the data for one client. Even employees who didn’t have any specialized training could usually get through one client’s account in less than 7 hours. Your freelancers, however, have been charging for more hours—a lot more. Six months ago, their time sheet showed that they spent an average of 16 hours per account. Three months ago, their time sheet showed that they spent an average of 19 hours per account. And as you open this month’s invoices, you see that they are reporting having spent an average of 21 hours per account. You think to yourself “This can’t be right?” You wonder if maybe they are just working extra slowly. Or maybe they are billing you for hours they spend looking up YouTube videos. As you worry about what the freelancers are doing, one of your managers says he has saw a solution on TV the other day. It’s a service from a company called oDesk. The company, which helps businesses connect with freelance workers all over the world, also offers a software program that takes pictures of freelancers’ computer screens and records their keystrokes and mouse clicks throughout the day. In short, it lets companies like yours know almost every single move that a freelancer makes. “It’s the perfect solution,” your manager tells you. No more worries about what the freelancers are doing with their time and your money. You can know every single thing they do during the time they are billing you. It does seem to be a great solution. But you have some hesitation—isn’t this a bit too much like spying? Do I really want to spend my time constantly looking over someone else’s shoulder? 1. Should this company use oDesk’s feature to monitor its contractors? Why or why not? 2. In your opinion, do the benefits of using oDesk’s surveillance feature outweigh the potential costs?

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