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Summary:

Working with virtual staff based in other countries has been growing in popularity recently, driven in part by the lower costs. But there are some concerns — legalities, data security and the language barrier — to take into account before you enlist the help of workers from overseas.

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Working with virtual staff based in other countries has been growing in popularity recently, driven in part by lower costs. But there are some concerns to take into account before you enlist the help of workers from overseas.

Legalities

There are many fields and industries where there are controls over who can legally do certain types of work. For example, you may not be allowed to use overseas staff to prepare tax returns if the taxpayer in question hasn’t approved the move. You need to be sure that you’re allowed to move a given type of work abroad, as well as check what sort of disclosures you need to make.

Data Security

If you’re hiring new team members who will have full access to all of your organization’s information, you need to be sure that you’re hiring the right person. That decision is hard enough when you can sit down with the person you are considering bringing into the organization. But with virtual staff, that may not be a possibility; finding someone local to vet potential candidates may be the best of a long list of less-than-great options.

You also have to build up trust with the staff that you work with over time. Most organizations will have information that may not be exactly proprietary, but that they’d rather keep private. You need to be able to build the necessary confidence in your staff so that there aren’t issues, even if you never meet them in person.

The Language Barrier

Despite the fact that you can usually find an English-speaking virtual staffer for your organization, language and cultural barriers can remain. American English can differ from the English spoken in India, just as British English has its own differences from the English spoken in the Philippines. That requires an organization that works with virtual staff to be as precise as possible in its communications.

It can take some time to develop a sense of how to communicate in the depth necessary to make sure that virtual staff understand exactly what you need them to do for your organization.

The Value of Virtual Staff

Despite these concerns, there are many organizations that find working with virtual staff based overseas makes it much easier to grow. The cost considerations are impressive once you get a system in place that works and a team you can trust.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Steve Cadman

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  1. Regarding data security, I think you need to make sure that you are giving the proper level of access to your staff overseas. If such is still a newbie then it doesn’t make sense to give full access to FTP for example. Hire with caution. :)

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  2. I love that you wrote about tax implications as this subject can confuse a lot of small business owners who have decided to hire virtual staff offshore. I think that security is a real issue so I’d say one must do a thorough research of the virtual team of your choice. Even with a fine print, filing for claims and international lawsuits – can be cumbersome ( not to mention, costly ).

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  3. We use a secure online collaboration tool, called Teambox, for our project management and worldwide office communication. It’s low cost and easy to use like Twitter.

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