Big tech firms target those who work only from home

The numbers who work from home only are increasing – and fast

While the internet is rife with stories of “mouse monitoring”, whereby the company will ring you if your mouse doesn’t move within a designated time, companies have many other ways of monitoring your performance

While the internet is rife with stories of “mouse monitoring”, whereby the company will ring you if your mouse doesn’t move within a designated time, companies have many other ways of monitoring your performance

 

Fancy a free iMac, no commute and an employee discount? If that’s the case, then a work from home role with a giant of the tech world may be for you.

Not to be confused with a typical job where you may have the flexibility to work from home one day a week or outside office hours, tech companies across the globe are increasingly hiring cadres of employees who work only from home, and only for that tech company.

It’s not clear how many people are currently employed in such jobs across Ireland, but the evidence would suggest that the numbers are growing. And fast. Apple, for example, is hiring for a number of customer service roles across Ireland, including work from home positions in Galway, Limerick, Kerry, Killarney, Cork and Dublin to work a 39-hour week. And it also recruits at colleges across the country, promising a custom schedule that works with students’ lecture hours, and the lure of a free iMac.

You have to be prepared to put in 20 hours a week during term time, rising to full-time hours during holidays, while e-commerce giant Amazon also recruits customer service agents around the country.

Company benefits

And for someone looking to balance the demands of home life with an easy commute, or for a more flexible working pattern, a work from home job can allow them to do so.

US software and service vendor Science Logic is recruiting for a number of work at home jobs in Ireland on four 10-hour shifts a week, allowing three days off each week. “This schedule will benefit the potential employee’s work/life balance, which is important in our company culture,” it says.

But, if you’re drawn to the appeal of a work from home job on the expectation that it will allow you balance minding your kids or caring for a relative at home, you may need to think again.

Apple, for example, expressly states that you’ll need a private workspace “with a door that closes”, and “no noise or distraction” to work with them. So hang supervising the kids’ homework while you deal with customers’ queries then.

And the jobs can be intense.

Apple says its “at home advisors” will need to be available to receive calls for a minimum of 80 per cent of their time, and in some of its job ads, it asserts that applicants will need to have “a high stress tolerance”.

Dublin-based Gearóid Neville got a short-term contract with Amazon covering last Christmas offering support to customers purchasing on the UK website. While he found it difficult telling some customers who called that their purchases wouldn’t arrive in time for Christmas Day, and did feel the pressure at times, he found it a supportive environment in which to work.

“You never felt like ‘if I don’t know how to do something, there’s no-one here to show me what to do’. There was always some kind of manager or team leader there,” he says.

You’ll also have to be able to stomach a lot of corporate lingo. If you want to be a “work from home Amazonian” with the e-commerce giant you’ll need a “bias for action” – or a tendency perhaps to answer the phone rather than let it ring out while you update your Facebook status; and a desire to sort out customer queries as “Amazonians don’t pass the buck when it comes to customer issues”. If you want to work for Apple, you’ll have to know how to not only “enrich the lives of Apple customers” but also “wow” them by sorting out their problems.

An “ergonomic chair and desk” is also needed, as the company is so concerned about your posture, and you’ll need a high-speed hard-wired internet connection (minimum 5.0 Mbps download / 1.0 Mbps upload), as well as a dedicated telephone line from a “reliable carrier”. And while a free computer might sound attractive at first, typically this will have to be returned when your employment does. Indeed one work at home recruit found he had to make a 500km round-trip to return his computer when he stopped working for the company.

Qualifications

While the jobs ostensibly involve working from home, which means that it shouldn’t matter where you live provided that you have decent broadband service, some companies still impose restrictions.

Amazon for example, has a requirement for the employee to be within a 45-mile radius of Cork Airport. And it requires you to complete four weeks of training at its site in Cork. With Apple, be prepared for five-seven weeks of training, but this is done virtually. Science Logic conducts its interviews with Skype, and uses this and other platforms, such as WebEx, to conduct meetings, trainings, and other day-to-day activities.

For his short-term contract, Neville only had to be in Cork for training for one day.

One point new recruits may need to bear in mind however, is that many companies use the training process as a further selection process, weeding out those who may not be suited or motivated enough to work at home alone. Training typically involves frequent virtual testing – and if you fail a number of these tests, you will be let go. And the “testing” doesn’t stop once you’ve been hired either.

Companies can easily track what you’re doing, and every missed call or missed email can be traced back to you. So while you might get away with one or two, any more than that will start ringing alarm bells.

While the internet is rife with stories of “mouse monitoring”, whereby the company will ring you if your mouse doesn’t move within a designated time, companies have many other ways of monitoring your performance.

At Amazon, Neville recalls that his team got weekly stats on how many queries were dealt with and how long it took to close them.

“There is a slight bit of pressure – you can see your progress and see how well you’ve been doing,” he says.

At some companies, if you get a few bad reviews from customers, you get assigned a special coach who will organise a training session once a week with you. And while working remotely may keep you safe from the distractions of office politics and gossip, you may get fed up with your own company.

“It can get lonely at times,” recalls Neville.

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