When you’re a parent, flexibility is important. Children have needs, emergencies come up and kids seem to always have an appointment for one reason or another. If your work schedule is not flexible enough, it can cause a problem which might result in the lost of your job. Even if your family comes first, the loss of income can be disastrous!

Men and women alike are finding themselves in need of work that will allow them to be at home while still earning the income needed to support the family. When she was pregnant, Sara S. Fell found herself in a similar situation. She needed flexible work, but kept hitting roadblocks. Rather than succumb to one of those roadblocks, she started her own business to help others find what she was looking for.

FlexJobs is made to help professionals reach job opportunities that may have otherwise been lost amid a pile of scams. Sara takes care in what comes through her website, and she always keeps the individual looking for work in mind when she decides on which opportunity should and should not be listed on the site. Job seekers can create a profile for $49.95 per year (or $14.95 per month) while employers may list as many opportunities as they have available for $49.95 per month (after their initial 2 week free trial). Unlike most free options, the jobs listed are all hand-screened.

What is the inspiration behind FlexJobs?

When I was pregnant with my first son, I started looking at the flexible job options out there, because I knew that I wanted to be able to work from home at least part-time. However, I was surprised to discover how frustrating it was to find the legitimate jobs amidst all of the scams and ads. Having worked in high-tech for over 10 years, I knew that the opportunities were out there though. So, after talking it over with my husband and some colleagues, I decided to create FlexJobs with the goal to help others find great telecommuting and work at home positions more easily. The bottom line is that telecommuting can be so beneficial, and in so many ways – helping to achieve a work-life balance, saving money for both employees and employers, benefiting the environment… I could go on and on!

How has the website changed from the beta stage to now?

In terms of the website itself, we have MANY more jobs and have implemented tons of user experience improvements to make our site really easy, welcoming, and clean. In terms of our business, the biggest fundamental change we’ve had to make was to change from a free service for job-seekers to a subscription-based service. It was a very difficult decision, but it has proven to be right one by allowing us to really focus on the job-seekers as our Clients, rather than advertisers or employers. And we try to keep the prices as low as possible!

What makes your website different from the other at-home job sites that can be found on the internet? Why should someone choose you when looking to telecommute?

With most job sites, employers and advertisers are their primary customers and main sources of revenue, which means lots of ads and often lower-quality job postings. As I mentioned before, our primary customers are job-seekers, so we answer to the job-seeker and really focus on making our service the best and most efficient for our subscribers. The main ways we accomplish this:

  • Our trained staff spends hours daily finding relevant job postings from all over the internet, researching them for legitimacy, and adding only the best ones to our database… so our users can just logon and easily, quickly find the best jobs for them.
  • We provide excellent customer support, including telephone support, so when a job-seeker has a question they will be able to talk to a real person to get an answer.
  • Our site is much cleaner and easier to use than many of the other ones out there, and we have NO ADS (on some sites, it can get really confusing to distinguish between actual job listings and advertising, contextual advertising, sponsorships, and advertorial).
  • Users can have complete peace of mind that we don’t have any job listings on our site from questionable or anonymous employers – only legitimate jobs!

Why do you feel it is so important for employers to hire individuals to work from home, rather than commuting to an office?

Employers can benefit from hiring at-home workers in many ways, such as:

  • save money on overhead
  • select employees from a wide pool of talent despite where the company is located
  • reach employees with specific, hard-to-find skills
  • increase employee retention, productivity, and loyalty
  • have the ability to ramp up/down based on project needs more quickly

Additionally, these opportunities not only benefit the employers, but also the employees. They can:

  • eliminate or reduce time spent commuting
  • save money on gas or public transportation fees and other work-related costs such as dry cleaning and lunches out
  • be eligible for jobs that are outside of their geographic region
  • accomplish a better work-life balance

How do you determine whether a submitted opportunity is legit or not? Is there a screening process currently in place to weed out potential scams?

First, we must know the name of the employer for every job listing. Then, we research the employer to confirm the legitimacy of their business, and use the BBB and other screening agencies when necessary. Bottom line: if there is any doubt or concern, we don’t include them.

What are most companies looking for in an at-home employee? What are most people looking for in an at-home opportunity?

This really depends on the company, position, and jobseeker. In general, companies want to find people who are qualified and have the skills to do their jobs, and who also are self-disciplined enough to work from home. Employees want to find jobs that have flexible schedules, are in-line with their careers, and offer a sufficient wage. The other important point is that the types of jobs available for telecommuting or work at home are much more broad than many people might think. They aren’t just customer service, call centers, data entry, transcription, and virtual admins, although those are popular. But they are also writing, marketing, web development, education, healthcare, and more… the list goes on and on, and is growing every day.

Where would you like to see FlexJobs go over the next year? Do you have any specific goals you’d like to reach?

We plan to keep growing and helping more people find job situations that really work for them. In order to accomplish that, we need to continue getting the word out about our site and adding excellent jobs to our site. Plus, we have many enhancements for our site in the works.

What have you learned from running FlexJobs that has helped you grow as an entrepreneur?

Running a startup takes a lot of energy, and FlexJobs is my second job startup. With my first one, I dove in and didn’t have a lot of competing responsibilities. This time around, I have a family with two young sons. So it’s important for me to focus on achieving a new balance between my entrepreneurial passions and my personal ones. And this exercise in balance has taught me how to better discipline myself when it comes to managing priorities and my time.

The lack of flexibility has been the main reason why so many individuals end up leaving a job. Why do you feel companies haven’t considered offering a more flexible schedule before now? Is allowing an individual to telecommute the ultimate example of flexibility or do you feel there is more that can be done to reduce employee turnover within a business?

Offering telecommuting, flexible schedules, part-time options, and job sharing are fantastic retention programs. Offering these programs often require a paradigm shift for managers who have always worked in traditional on-site employment. It’s a different way of doing things that needs a longer term view on how effective the benefits of these programs can be. But once employers can envision (1) how well these flexible employment options work when the right technology tools and the proper policies have been put in place and (2) the cost-savings can come from retaining key employees longer and keeping them more productive and loyal, they start to really embrace them.

What advice do you have for a company that is considering a move to hire at-home employees?

Look to FlexJobs for excellent candidates!

And, no matter how large or small the company is, they should consider establishing telecommuting policies. For example, what hours will the employee work? Is the schedule completely flexible or does the employee need to be available during specific times of the day?

Originally posted by Angela Shupe on November 10, 2008 in Interviews.

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