What is a virtual employee?
A virtual employee is a professional who works remotely for any business. They use virtual means of communication to keep in touch while performing tasks and completing projects from outside the office, and sometimes even outside of the country. Over the past few years, we have seen the acceptance of virtual employees grow exponentially. This new year of 2023 looks to continue this trend as many professionals seeking work expect increased flexibility. More businesses are embracing this desired flexibility, as they seek to accommodate valuable talent.
4 Benefits of Hiring Remote Employees
Reduce overhead costs
- Whether you choose to go with a professional service or someone freelance, you’ll always save money when hiring a remote employee. You reduce the need for more physical space to accommodate them, which means fewer costs on insurance, amenities, office supplies, and maintenance. If you go with a virtual assistant provider, you save even more, as you only pay one flat rate with no additional costs.
Get more time back
- In 2022 the most common pain point described by business owners we talked to was needing more time. Every department and role in your business has its primary duties and its secondary duties. Professionals spend too much time on busy work, ending up with less time spent on higher-value opportunities. By having a remote assistant managing all of those tasks that don’t require an in-person touch, you free up your in-house experts to focus on their specialties.
Increase overall productivity
- Piggybacking off the above point, with better use of time comes increased efficiency. A remote employee can manage busy work while your local experts get more high-value work done. Your remote assistant can also help you fit in more sales efforts, increasing leads, inputting data on warm leads, and scheduling appointments more effectively.
Improve the customer experience
- When you get more efficient with your business, you make waves throughout the entire customer journey. And the customer notices. A remote employee, like a virtual assistant, can be there when your in-house employees cannot. Like working after hours, and responding to online inquiries the moment they come in. A couple of good remote employees managing your online presence can make it seem like you have a hundred of them in-house.
Common Types of Virtual Employees
There are several different types of virtual employees. The common denominator is of course their ability to work entirely remotely, via reliable equipment and an internet connection. The biggest differences between them are the cost per value and the inherent risks. Some types of remote employees can be less reliable and effective than others, and some can cost a lot less than others. It’s important to understand what your needs and expectations are, before determining which type of virtual employee would suit you best.
Type 1: Virtual Assistants
- This is a remote working professional who is technically employed by a virtual assistant service provider. As a customer, you discuss your needs with the provider and they give you professionals to choose from. You pay the provider a flat monthly fee to have that remote employee become part of your time, per the details of your contract.
Type 2: In-House Remote
- This would be when you hire someone locally, via your own job ad and recruiting. You hire them the same way you would any other employee, with insurance and benefits, and equipment requirements. The only difference is they work from home rather than coming into your office. But you can stipulate the occasional need for an in-office visit during the job offer phase.
Type 3: Freelance
- Freelance employees work remotely by default, as they often make themselves available to multiple employers at a time. This would be someone you found on a job board of some kind, where you’d browse professionals and their skills/talents, and reach out accordingly. A freelance worker has the least amount of oversight and responsibility to a specific business, so this is often the riskiest choice for a remote employee.
How to Hire a Remote Employee
Hiring a remote employee can be a great way to bring on talented individuals from a wider geographic area, but it’s important to follow a thorough and effective process to ensure that you find the right fit for your business. Here are the three most important steps when hiring a remote employee:
- Clearly define the role: Before you start looking for candidates, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the skills, experience, and qualities that you are looking for in a remote employee. This will help you create a job posting that accurately reflects the role and attract the right candidates.
- Use a structured interview process: When interviewing remote candidates, it’s important to use a structured process to ensure that you are evaluating all candidates fairly and consistently. This might include conducting a phone or video interview, as well as asking the same questions to all candidates.
- Test their skills and fit: In addition to evaluating a candidate’s qualifications and experience, it’s also important to assess their fit for your team and the role. Consider giving them a trial project or task to see how they perform in a remote work environment. This can help you determine whether they have the necessary skills and motivation to succeed in a remote role.
Top 3 Interview Questions for Virtual Employees
When interviewing a virtual employee, it’s important to focus on their ability to work effectively in a remote setting as well as their ability to handle the work you require. Here are three questions that can help you assess a candidate’s suitability for a virtual role. Asking questions like these can help you get a sense of the candidate’s ability to manage their own work and stay productive in a remote setting. It can also be helpful to ask about their experience with virtual communication tools and their ability to collaborate with team members remotely.
- How do you stay focused and on task when working from home?
- What is your history of working remotely?
- Tell me about platforms you’re familiar with for remote work and communication.
Onboarding Your Virtual Employee
Onboarding a remote employee can be a little different from onboarding an in-office employee, but it is still important to ensure that they feel welcomed and supported as they start their new role. Here are a few tips for onboarding a remote employee:
- Clearly communicate expectations: Make sure that the remote employee has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities, as well as any policies or procedures that they need to follow.
- Set up regular check-ins: It can be easy for remote employees to feel isolated, so it’s important to set up regular check-ins, either via video call or phone, to ensure that they feel connected to the team.
- Provide access to necessary resources: Make sure that the remote employee has access to all of the resources and tools that they need to do their job effectively, including any necessary software or systems.
- Encourage communication: Encourage remote employees to reach out to their manager or colleagues with any questions or concerns that they may have.
- Offer support for remote work: Consider offering resources or support to help the remote employee set up their home office and adjust to working remotely.
- Schedule a virtual meet and greet: Consider scheduling a virtual meet and greet with the rest of the team to help the remote employee get to know their colleagues.
- Make sure they feel included: Make an effort to include the remote employee in team events and activities, even if they can’t physically be present.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the disadvantages of hiring virtual employees?
There are a few potential disadvantages to hiring virtual employees, commonly including communication challenges. It can be more difficult to communicate with virtual employees, as you may not have the opportunity to have in-person conversations or see each other in real time. This can make it more challenging to build strong working relationships and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Other hurdles can be time-zone differences and technology issues. These challenges have can be mitigated via thorough onboarding and training.
Are virtual employees right for small businesses?
Virtual employees can be a good option for small businesses, as they offer a number of benefits. One of the main benefits of hiring virtual employees is that it allows small businesses to access a wider pool of talent, as they are not limited to hiring employees who live in a particular location. This can be particularly useful for businesses that need to hire employees with specialized skills or expertise.
Where can I find a virtual employee?
There are many ways to find virtual employees. There are multiple online job boards that specialize in virtual or remote work. These can be a good place to find virtual employees with a range of skills and experience levels. Recruitment agencies are a safer bet, however. They are companies that specialize in finding virtual employees for businesses. These agencies typically have a database of pre-screened candidates who are available for virtual work and can help businesses find the right fit for their needs.