Your boss likely has a to-do list with projects she would like to get done but can’t. She would jump at the chance to do these things if she could just pass them off to someone competent and manage them at arm’s length. These projects add value if they are done well (and your boss doesn’t have to babysit them) but they probably aren’t critical to the success of your company.
My adventures in to-do list outsourcing
My boss and I had a to-do list like this. Over the years we’ve tried various strategies to get those jobs done. Unfortunately, our failures outnumbered our successes.
For example, I once hired a guy from Pakistan through one of those freelancer websites to crop and resize a couple of hundred some photos for our website. Easy right? Not so much. He quickly edited the photos and sent them to me and about half of them had the wrong aspect ratio. We emailed back and forth and he assured me that he understood his mistake and would correct it. The next day I get the photos back and they’re still wrong. So I spent two hours chatting with him trying to communicate aspect ratios across a significant language barrier. He eventually got it. But, by that time I could have just done the job myself with less frustration and zero expense.
We also tried temp workers for some manual labor at our warehouse. Some of the temps were good workers but most were not. And one guy was so out of shape that we had to keep telling him to slow down because we were afraid he was going to have a heart attack.
I once hired a stay-at-home mom to work for me part time when I owned my business. That arrangement worked for the better part of a year. But she eventually decided to focus on other things and quit.
Good help can be hard to find, as they say.
The chronically ill as an untapped labor resource
Yup, you read that right. I know this is a little out of left field but hear me out.
I have a chronic illness and I’ve been working from home for more than a decade. I can only work part-time and if my employer insisted I work from the office I would have to quit.
Many people in the support group for my illness found themselves in that exact situation. They couldn’t convince their employers to let them work from home or negotiate reduced hours so they lost their jobs. It’s not just people with my illness in this situation, there are millions of highly skilled, highly educated people out there sitting idle because they can’t handle a 40 hour work week in an office or at a job site.
I bet you know somebody like this. Maybe this person is a relative or a friend of a friend or a former co-worker. Is there any chance this person would be a fit for one or more of the projects on your boss’s to-do list?
Here’s what you’re potentially getting:
- a highly educated/skilled/experienced person
- available for odd jobs on demand
- reasonable compensation expectations
- might have to work remotely
- might not be able to commit to a rigid schedule
- potentially available for a long-term, low intensity work relationship
- might have to work at their own pace
Things to consider
Some ground rules:
- protect your company first and foremost. Don’t even consider hiring someone out of pity or because “it’s the right thing to do”
- look for projects that either help with your constraint or free up time for you or your boss to work on your constraint
- only pitch a relationship to your boss if it will be win-win. Just because you know someone who needs money doesn’t mean that you need to be the person to help them get it
- select appropriate projects for this kind of work. Prefer tasks that are:
- easily done remotely
- not time-critical
- don’t require much training or supervision
- are easy to verify as done correctly
- do your due diligence. People with chronic illnesses can be thieves, be crappy workers, have drug problems, etc. just like any healthy person
- be fair with compensation. People with chronic illnesses can be desperate for money. And while you might be able to get someone to agree to unfair compensation, I hope you’ll pay people fairly in the hopes of cultivating a profitable long term relationship
- consider starting with a short trial period where either party can walk away if things aren’t working out
So that’s my pitch. People with chronic illnesses are an untapped resource you can use to outsource small projects and allow you to focus on the important aspects of your job. They won’t be a fit for every task. But if you keep your eyes open you might just find the perfect task for the perfect person, which will impress your boss AND earn you some major karma points.
Tell me about your experiences. Have you hired someone with a disability or chronic illness? How did it go? If you’ve never done it, would you consider it?