What Is a Virtual Employee

What Is a Virtual Employee? All You Need to Know

What is a virtual employee? What jobs can virtual employees perform? Learn more about employing virtual employees and how it can work for your business.

Stefana Zaric
Written by Stefana Zaric
November 18, 2021
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With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world saw a shift to remote working, and virtual employment began to rise. With the need to cut business costs and save money where possible, virtual employment became a favorable choice for entrepreneurs and business expansion for companies across the world.

The pandemic has forced businesses to acknowledge the advantages of remote work and for that reason, remote work is only likely to grow from here. It has become the new normal for most businesses. 

Remote workers tend to be more productive, engaged, and happier within the workplace and it also offers attractive benefits to the employees and their entire team, such as increased customer support, fewer business costs, and streamlined project management processes.

If you want to hire virtual employees, or even virtual assistants, but not completely sure what it entails, keep reading this post. We’re going to take you through everything you need to know about virtual staffing and why it could be right for your business.

What is a virtual employee?

A remote employee, or a virtual employee, typically works on a real-time remote basis for your company. Most of the time, they are full-time employees. Most people confuse virtual employees with freelancers but they’re very different. 

Freelancers are self-employed individuals who work for multiple people or clients at the same time. As an employer, you don’t have much control over when the freelancer completes their work, who they work for, or the money they charge for their work. 

However, contrary to this, virtual employees work for a single employer, which gives them more control of various aspects of their job such as the work they complete, when they complete it, and how much they’ll be paid for it. You can assign them specific tasks for a specific fee. You can even hire virtual assistants, graphics designers, and even marketing specialists. They are exactly like a regular employee, except they’re not in your office.

In most cases, virtual employees aren’t directly employed by your business and will usually be employed through a third-party company. It’s an incredibly cost-effective way for small businesses to save costs and increase their output.

With COVID-19 restrictions, the rise of virtual employees is on the up and doesn’t show signs of stopping. Advancements in technology and software development mean it’s becoming even more possible to outsource many of your company responsibilities to another part of the world and in the current climate, is probably the safest thing to do.

Pros and cons of hiring virtual employees

As with anything, there are pros and cons to hiring virtual employees. Let’s firstly look at some benefits: 

  1. You can quickly scale your business

Scaling your business means more hiring more employees which means you’ll eventually need more office space. This of course means greater business costs. Using virtual employees means there are lower business costs, allowing you to scale at higher levels. 

  1. You can enhance diversity

Hiring remotely means you can hire people from another city, or even another country! This allows you to take advantage of global talent and hire people from all over the world. 

  1. You can provide 24/7 customer support

When you have your business and staff in one place, it can be hard to cope with customers/clients from all over the world and your customer support can begin to lack. Hiring remotely from all over the world means you have staff on hand all hours of the day to help out with customer support, streamlining your business, and increasing customer satisfaction.

  1. Better employee motivation

Taking away employees’ busy morning commute and giving them flexible working hours is guaranteed to increase their motivation and help them achieve a better work-life balance. Team members' happiness and motivation helps them be more productive, in turn helping your business. 

However, there are some drawbacks to be cautious of:

  1. Some jobs can only be done in person

For example, in-person client presentations and real estate jobs cannot be done virtually. However, the positive is that there are a lot of jobs that can be done remotely. Jobs such as bookkeeping, copywriting and virtual assistants are all fine to undertake remotely. Take this into consideration when hiring a virtual employee. 

  1. Managing a virtual team is demanding

It’s important you have the right resources and processes in place to manage a virtual team. This includes investing in the correct software and tools for them in order to monitor progress and help with progression. You also need to ensure you have flexible work timings, which may not be suitable for every business.

  1. Time zone differences

Hiring from all over the world brings the obvious challenge of time zone differences. When team members are miles away and in a different time zone, you won’t be able to know what they are doing during work hours, verify that they are working at all, or know if they’re accessing websites that violate your company policy.

How much does it cost to hire a virtual employee?

As previously mentioned, hiring virtual employees is often done through third-party recruitment companies, called Employers of Record.

The hiring process cost varies, depending on who you use, where you hire from, and the type of virtual employee you hire - if they're a full-time employee or an independent contractor. The price range may also depend on the number of employees you need.

Some virtual employees will require paying per task you assign, or some may accept a monthly/weekly cost. It’s worth doing your research and deciding which option works best for your business.

How to hire a virtual employee

Hiring a virtual employee is pretty simple. If you choose outsourcing to a recruitment company, they will help you find full-time dedicated employees who work exclusively from their offices all over the world.

The talent pool for virtual employees is huge. They cover all kinds of areas such as social media marketing, SEO, journalism, web design, bookkeeping, administration, data entry, and more. Whatever industry you're in, you'll likely find more than one suitable candidate in a matter of hours.

How to keep a virtual employee engaged

Due to the pandemic, it is clear that remote work is here to stay. So, we should just make the most of it.

As mentioned, employee happiness improves motivation, and in turn, this directly influences engagement. It can be hard to keep your employees engaged working remotely, which can have an adverse effect on your business. 

Investing in your employees’ long-term successes and engagement means you are rewarded with more content and productive employees, who are likely to stay with you for a long time. Here are some ways in which you can do this when considering virtual staffing:

Leverage technology to nurture open communication

Keep remote employees connected through various communication channels such as Zoom, Slack, and Skype. Video conferencing apps like this keep virtual workers across the world connected in the best way, ensuring everyone is on the same page. It also helps remote employees to experience teamwork and feel part of your in-house team. You can encourage them to use file-sharing methods to increase streamlined work-sharing processes. Using video chats for meetings is a great way to keep in touch and get to know faces. It is more personable than simple phone calls and helps employees feel part of a team. 

Show employees that you genuinely care

Building meaningful relationships allows you to create a positive and trusting work environment. Consider their schedules, work requirements, and even take an interest in their life outside of work, if appropriate. Make the time to talk with them about their family, personal hobbies, mental health, and other things. Follow each other on social media, particularly platforms such as LinkedIn. Offer help to manage their workload to make sure they avoid burnout whilst working for you. 

Ask for and listen to feedback

If the world of remote employees is new to you, make sure you see the value in employee feedback. Ask for feedback where necessary. This helps you as a business to identify areas of improvement, but also allows employees to feel as though their opinions and thoughts are valid. This leads to them being more engaged in work, and engaged employees are more productive and generate better results because they're connected to the company's goals on a deeper level.

Keep your employees in the loop

Working remotely makes it hard to find a communication balance, although it’s crucial to keep remote workers updated on projects, goals, progress, and all company news.

If you do have an office, remote workers can often feel disconnected, leading to poorer performance. Use goal setting and tracking systems that everyone can access, no matter where they are. Keep up to date on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn. Check in regularly with remote employees to include them in business dialogue. 

Give them the tools they need to succeed

Giving employees the right tools to succeed is crucial for everyone to achieve the desired outcome when it comes to business goals. It pushes them to do their best work and engage in the business.

This is especially true for remote teams, who may not have all the tools you do in the office. Any resources like hardware, programs, and equipment need to be considered when looking at tools for success. Set them up for working at home and have confidence in their work. 

Encourage social interaction and team bonding

Although people may be all over the world, organizing staff and remote team-building events are super important, even if this is virtually done. Employees working alone remotely can experience extreme loneliness.

By hosting social events within the workplace, you immediately make them feel part of a wider team, leading to happier staff and higher output. Strengthening workplace connections is vital to business success. 

Offer flexibility

Finally, offering flexibility to employees is the best way to keep them engaged. Trust your team to get the job done, no matter where they are. Trust between employees and managers is crucial for employee engagement and helps everyone retain a healthy work-life balance.

Hire your ideal virtual worker with Deel

So, there you have it. Everything you need to know about virtual employees and virtual assistants. If you want to hire virtual employees extremely beneficial for your business and even your entire team, in terms of saving money and scaling, however, it’s not right for everyone. It’s vital you assess your business needs and whether it’s right for you or not.

Already found the one? If you've identified that perfect candidate who will enhance your global team, don't miss your opportunity to make them an offer and grab them before someone else does. Deel helps you do it quickly, compliantly, and reliably! You can hire a virtual employee in minutes, no matter where they're located. Request a demo on our website to find out how.

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