Who's Looking Over Your Shoulder at Work?

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The New York Times had an interesting story over the weekend about LiveOps, a company that creates virtual call centers. The company employs 20,000 independently contracted â''home agentsâ'' who take orders for various companies, from those that advertise on infomercials to those who sell pizza.

The Times story gives as an example that if a company's order volume starts to surge, say because of a snow storm in the case of a pizza company, the increased call volume can be automatically routed to these independent LiveOps agents located anywhere in the country to handle it.

The story points out that there are many virtual call center companies that help companies reduce their call center costs, but what makes LiveOps unique is that its software can also route calls to home agents that meet client-set performance measures the best. An agent who doesnâ''t meet the performance criteria doesnâ''t get fired, â''They just donâ''t get work,â'' says Maynard Webb, the chief executive of LiveOps is quoted as saying.

The best workers can make up to $50,000 a year, says Webb, and he isnâ''t having any difficulty in finding employees. In fact, the Times story says, only 1 out of 50 applicants are accepted.

Webb thinks his concept can be expanded to any line of work where performance can be measured, such as health care, retailing, publishing and law. He doesnâ''t say engineering, but why not there too?

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