An article in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing web-based workers has me rather confused. The discussion in the article centers around a certain online labor marketplace, the hiring of virtual workers and the methods in place to “watch” those workers to ensure they are actually working.

While they do try to lead the article away from one of the most interesting aspects of these ‘jobs’, it is this paragraph that stands out the most. “It also provides the technological tools to supervise these workers, by giving bosses a way to see what the worker has on his or her computer screen and taking digital snapshots to make sure the person is at the keyboard.”

Am I the only one that sees the cross purposes at work here? To me, a virtual worker is someone who is more than capable of managing their own work and time, without constant supervision. They are organized, have an excellent work ethic and not only don’t need but wouldn’t allow a ‘boss’ spying on them while they are at work. The thought of someone taking digital snapshots of my personal work station would be considered a huge invasion of my privacy.

Perhaps these marketplaces for web workers would be better off advertising themselves as employers who are trying to save a buck. Having someone looking over your shoulder through every minute of your work day reeks of cubicle employment. It’s obvious those who are doing the hiring aren’t capable of weeding out low quality ‘work from home jobbers’ and have grouped all virtual workers together.

While I understand the need to make sure the work is being done properly, companies need to realize that if they want high quality employees, they will have to pay for them. Outsourcing your tasks does not mean you pay less unless you expect less. Whether on-site or virtually, you will get what you pay for.