An Unexpected Source of Competition for your Staff – Work from Home

We have discussed the abundance of opportunity for good quality people in the Philippines, especially in the booming BPO industry. Management opportunities are becoming more common, and there is the regular temptation of the Pioneer Batch as new call centres open up regularly. An additional threat to your company’s stability is the work from home opportunity.

When I initially heard about staff leaving to work from home i did not think much of it. Unless they were starting their own business I would only have associated this kind of work setup as for someone who may have family responsibilities and needed some extra cash on the side by doing some data entry work, or answering phones. The kind of thing suited to stay at home mums – when making broad assumptions of course.

I started to take more notice when the frequency of staff taking work from home opportunities became more frequent, and the salaries they were supposedly receiving became very consistent. These salaries seemed high for the work they were doing and i assumed there was a level of exaggeration in there to rationalise the decision to leave their job, so people would not criticise them. Salaries of p30,0000-p40,000 are very tempting to someone who may be making p20,000-p30,000, and have to endure a soul sucking commute every day.

The additional benefit of not having to pay tax is a cherry on top of what could be a great fit for some. This raises moral and ethical questions about people paying their fair share of taxes, but thats not something i will go into here. Perhaps the change is coming movement will inspire all these work form home employees to put their hand up and do the right thing…. yeah right. I guess everyone didn’t become law abiding Filipinos overnight.

Why the Opportunity

It was not until i started to learn about the e-commerce world, and internet marketing of information, products and services that I discovered this idea of hiring a Virtual Assistant. There are thousands of small businesses around the world that build virtual teams with offshore workers. A very large portion of which are in the Philippines.

From a Westerners perspective, the idea of having a full time employee for $400-$600 a month sounds like a great deal! From the other perspective, p20k to p28k for an entry level general assistant role is also very good. Of course you can go cheaper than this, but if you do you are setting yourself up for a lot of extra work and frustration.

Like any industry, if you want experience, managers or specialised skills the salary will increase from there. However, you can still get decent writers, SEOs, designers and web developers for less than US$1,000 a month. Again flipping that perspective around to that of the virtual worker, this is a p40,000+ monthly salary.

Many online workers will take up more than one job at a time. Again this raises ethical questions if they do not disclose this to their employers. Anyone working two or three full time jobs is just not going to be a dedicated and valuable employee. But many will take advantage of this for as long as they can and half ass two to three jobs. As you can see there is good money on offer when doing this.

How the Philippines fits in

The Philippines has developed a strong reputation as the go to place for virtual workers. This is for many of the same reasons that the BPO industry has found a home here. Filipinos speak good English, have in demand technical skills, hard working and are generally compatible from a cultural point of view with most Western countries.

If you are looking to hire a VA then do not expect everyone to have these traits though. The variance in competency that you will find in possible candidates may be far greater than you would expect.

Just as it is for the traditional Filipino workplace, finding that great employee can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. It can be difficult to keep employees motivated and energised inside any workplace. Leaving them at home to manage themselves will rarely yield better results. I have spoken to many of our former staff who cite these challenges with self discipline as a constant struggle, but only a shrug of the shoulders is all that will follow.

Many foreign employers will understand how common these habits and personality traits can be amongst Filipinos.

Just as in a traditional workplace, there will be some superstars out there. When you find them they are gold and they should be looked after as such. You will have to be patient in your search though. Of all the staff members we have lost to a work form home position, i would hire none of them it is was for my business. They were ok workers, and all nice people, but lacked the drive needed to self manage and really shine for your business. I would put 80% of our staff in that category, and we are very strict with our hiring process and turn down 95% of applicants. This could give you an idea of how hard the task of finding a superstar really is.

Where to Find VAs

If you are looking to hire your own VA then check out our full write up (coming soon).

There are three main options to consider, and some great resources for you to check out below:

Even if you are not looking to hire a VA yourself, it is worth keeping up to date with the salary range being offered for these kind of jobs. This new phenomenon of offshore workers is only going to accelerate in the coming years and earnings are likely to grow over time. Being aware of this when researching comparable roles in the job market will help you stay competitive when framing your salary packages This can prevent being blindsided by a sudden spike in your staff turnover as you fall behind the market rates.

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