Forget outsourcing call centers to India. "Homesourcing" seems to be the new trend, as more and more businesses find that employing independent contractors stateside is a very cost-effective and productive strategy for manning their call centers. The trend, discussed in a USA Today article on Sunday, cites IDC researchers, who predict the number of home-based agents to triple over the next few years. Some of the reasons include a need to cut costs, improved access to technology and high-speed Internet access, and the ability to tap non-traditional labor pools such as students and retirees.

Though the story points to large employers as the driver of the trend, "homesourcing" isn't out of reach for smaller employers. Mary Naylor, CEO of VIPdesk, an Inc. 500 company, created a home-based agent call center as a way to build her business with high-caliber employees. As Naylor put it in her article, "There's No Place Like Home": 'We are no longer restricted to our local labor market. Imagine tapping the potential of national recruiting pool!' Besides this obvious advantage, VIPdesk enjoys very low turnover because of the work-life balance it provides and reduced operational costs.

Working with home-based employees doesn't come without its challenges. For instance, keeping everyone on the same page can be daunting, and you need to know whether a particular person can be disciplined enough in the situation to be sure he or she will be a productive fit. But, in a time where technology connects us with a touch of the button, rising fuel and other operational costs cut into bottom lines, and work-life balance is an attractive benefit, the advantages certainly seem to outweigh the negatives. What has your experience been working with remote employees or contractors?