Anne Tobas is 55 years of age but says she doesn't feel a day over 21. She recently challenged her 32-year-old son to the 50-yard dash and whipped his behind.
Anne is not your typical grandmother. With her grown daughter and her 5-year-old grandson, Darius, sharing a home and a lifestyle with her, Anne is having the time of her life. Her typical day consists of fielding customer service calls from timeshare owners who'd like to exchange their vacation slots for alternate destinations. Most of the time, she does this from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and then leaves to pick up Darius from kindergarten.
"Nana" then takes care of Darius' every need in the afternoon, from going to the park to scheduling play dates and trips to the museum. Darius' active imagination and inquisitive nature keep Nana on her toes. Darius' mother wakes him up in the morning, makes his breakfast and takes him to school. She is able to share his mornings with him but then commutes to "the city" (NY) for the afternoon shift at her full-time office job.
Anne says that her flexible job gives her and her daughter peace of mind:
If I was in the city working and Darius needed me, I wouldn't easily be able to go and get him right away. And the corporate world would look down on me for leaving work early. My daughter and I have arranged things so that we have the peace of mind that Darius is safe and has a family member available should he need one of us.
Anne is able to choose her schedule each week and may exchange her shift if she is unable to work.
This is all made possible through a leading virtual business services provider called Arise Virtual Solutions Inc., which enables people to work from home, using their computers to become part of the customer service networks of Fortune 500 companies. At-home agents like Anne establish their own corporations and contract with Arise to provide customer service, technical support and sales services to large, well-known corporations. As long as they maintain adequate performance metrics (such as revenues, coverage, punctuality), they may continue to service the corporations which outsource their call center operations to Arise. With the use of sophisticated call routing technology, Arise is able to route calls to agents during their pre-selected hours, wherever they may live.
Arise currently has more than 9,000 independent contractors in all 50 states and 750 plus working in the United Kingdom. The average age of the agents is between 34 and 50 years and over 65 percent are female. More than forty percent are college educated, and earning levels can reach $25 per hour, based on the level of expertise required and results of interactions with customers.
Before Anne's daughter and grandson came to live with her, Anne worked in the banquet billing department of the Hyatt Corporation. Before that, she was a reservations manager at the Holiday Inn in Miami. Anne says that working for Arise is very similar to her former jobs, except that she has flexibility in her work hours and can work from home. Her daughter laughs and says, "My mother gets paid for doing what she loves best...talking!" A native of Trinidad, her sing-song accent is immediately engaging and soothing to any telephone client with whom she speaks.
While she's doing the same kind of customer-service work that she did in her previous jobs, her current work differs in some important ways. First, she has the flexibility to work from home and to set her own hours. She can work as much or as little as she wants, within reason. She can also hire others to work for her. Currently, Anne has one employee who works part-time and volunteers when she's not working. The flexibility and owner status do require an investment. Because the Arise at-home agents operate their own businesses, Arise does not offer health care or other typical employee-type benefits such as paid time off.
According to Jared Fletcher, Vice President, Strategic Sourcing & VSC Operations at Arise Virtual Solutions Inc., "Given that all of our agents are established business owners, we do not offer benefits such as health care and paid time off. Our agents come to Arise because they understand the benefits of being an entrepreneur versus an employee. The flexibility and advantages of owning your own corporation in many cases exceeds the benefits of being a part-time or full-time employee. Our at-home agents understand how to capitalize on the opportunity of owning their own corporations." Anne is quick to point out a couple of other major advantages. First, she does not have to fight the traffic to commute to the city from her Brooklyn home. And second, she can work in her pajamas if she wants. This certainly cuts down on business wardrobe costs, and, according to Anne, these benefits help to make up for the fact that she does not have health care benefits.
For both parties, Arise and Anne, this seems to be an ideal arrangement. According to Jared Fletcher, "Anne is a high-performing agent within the Arise community and continuously provides top-level service to the client she represents." According to Anne:
When my grandbaby came along, somebody had to have flexible hours. My daughter works the evening shift in a New York office and somebody had to take care of Darius after school. Darius will get his first take home assignment this week, and he and Nana are looking forward to doing homework together for the first time! Arise gave me the opportunity to work at a job that I do well and also be with my precious grandbaby.
Sherry Moss is a Professor of Organizational Studies at Wake Forest University and a co-founder of www.HomeBy3.com. She and her business partners, Kevin Cain and Barb Egenhofer, have created a niche online job board which offers free job postings to organizations wishing to advertise flex-jobs to attract formerly-professional stay-at-home moms and other individuals who'd like to work flexibly. To learn more about HomeBy3, visit www.HomeBy3.com or email Sherry at sherry.moss@HomeBy3.com. We would love to hear your stories of how you or your organization are taking advantage of work flexibility.