From The Point Of View Of My Virtual Assistant
As a virtual assistant, I never thought about ethical issues of outsourcing work, perhaps because it is not hurting me enough to think about it. But morally speaking as a freelancer, I am not ashamed working as an online worker.
I don’t think that there are any ethical issues while working as a virtual assistant. In fact, it is in favor of my country because this way, foreign currency reserves of my country increase.
In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, a high number of people (manpower) have migrated to other richer countries and they sent a lot of money to their families regularly and these foreign remittances play a vital role in their economic stability.
But if I think vice-versa, I think there would be some ethical issues especially when it comes to unemployment and I know US and Europe are also facing some swear unemployment issues.
Outsourcing income is not too attractive
In my country, a very nominal number of people are considering “outsourcing” as their profession. If I look around my surroundings, I only know three people doing outsourced work and I am one of them.
Although they get a good amount of income after the currency conversion rates but still the pay rate in these countries is still more handsome than an outsourced job until you are an expert of your field. I am not saying this by judgment, I am quoting this statement after interviewing various providers from oDesk and getting relevant information from them.
Also the “job-insecurity” is a big drawback of this kind of job. This can also be one of outsourcing’s ethical issues from an employer’s point of view. Employers promise regular work by offering a long-term contract, and one morning, when you get up and login to your inbox, you find out that the employer has ended your contract without any notice.
This can break all your dreams about your future and is pretty much similar to being fired from your job and now you will have to struggle to find another job.
Ideally it’s suitable for part-timers or people who prefer working flexible hours until and unless they have some real outstanding skills like latest web designing techniques or are an expert Photoshop designer or a software engineer or programmer etc etc.
Pros and Cons of outsourcing from a VA’s perspective
- High currency conversion rates.
- Learning prospective.
- Flexible hours.
- Working without any immediate supervision
- Get reward for the work we do, we don’t have any hourly job concept (zero percent), we have either paid monthly with no overtime charges or work on daily wages.
- Over the years, transportation and café charges have been rapidly increased and by working online from home, we can save a lot of money. So our net income is high because our daily expenses are very low.
- Job insecurity
- Tough completion (due to massive increase of newbies everyday who are willing to work on very low rates)
- Power breakdown and backup issues.
- Withdrawing their earnings.
- If the outsourced work has some explicit content including some adult websites, people from this part of the world do not prefer doing such jobs and this can be one of the ethical issues of outsourcing.
Although I agree that this is a pretty sensitive topic and ethical issues about outsourcing are being discussed in every medium of information, but still I own my words that outsourcing is ethical for both employers and providers.
An employer reduces his production cost by hiring comparative labor and a provider gets a sufficient amount of money to earn bread for his family.
If you have travelled a bit, you will have made the difference that when you visit foreign countries, you might sometimes be surprised by how cheap everything is.
That’s when you feel the difference of cost of living from a foreign country.
Want an illustration?
Data entry job for students in Germany: 10 €/hour
Data entry job over oDesk in India: 1$/hour
When we interviewed different candidates for outsourcing case studies, we also included a questionnaire about how much living cost in the different countries.
You will find our results of this research of different cost of living by state below on this page. What I want to emphasize is that the process of outsourcing is naturally caused by these differences of income.
If you want to find out how much income levels differ in different states, then you can make use of a cost of living comparison calculator.
It doesn’t make outsourcing bad. Only if you adapt the money you invest into a foreign currency, and still are a cheap rip-off then there is nothing ethical in your business attitude.
If you are living in a country in Europe or America, chances are that your income levels are much higher than in so-called underdeveloped countries like India, China or even the Philippines.
Be smart and make use of the talented people there – you can then easily create a win-win situation.
- Create a job for someone who needs a job.
- Get quality work done for a fraction of the price you would pay in your own country.
- If you do it right, you don’t have to feel bad about it because you have the possibility to do much good even above borders of your country.
I put up this page here on my website to illustrate how different the world can be, how much difference there can be in the cost of a burger.
There are countries where feeding a whole family for $300 a month is not only a possibility, but reality.
Cost of Living in Thailand
Bad business ethics in a global market place are the number one factor that will destroy your chances of being successful with outsourcing or working as a freelancer.
The easy part of outsourcing is to get the work done as an employer or making the money as an employee.
The hard part as an employer is to have good outsourcing ethics so that you can sleep at night and be proud about what you do to your friends.
The hard part for a virtual assistant is to impress your employers with the high quality of your work and your loyalty so that they cannot help but
- promote you
- raise your salary
- and even hire you full time on their team
If you choose to do outsourcing without any business ethics, this will hurt your success both as an employer and as an employee.
Bad business ethics as an employer of virtual assistants
As an employer, you spend the money for results. But paying money does not free you from your responsibilities.
The best bottom-line attitude to have as an employer is to think of your workers as respectable experts that you have the opportunity to have gained as associates. Always think about how you both can win.
You’ll know that you have ethical issues as an employer if…
…you catch yourself thinking like this:
- Cool, I can hire a “slave” in India for 1$/hour!
- This work is crappy and boring to do. I’m not even sure it needs to be done, but my assistant is so cheap, let’s just have him do it.
- This damn VA is stupid and doesn’t understand me. I better yell at him real good!
- Bah, I’ll fire the guy. There are millions like him out there…
…or any condescending, egotistical thoughts towards your associates…
Re-think your strategy!
If you have this approach about outsourcing to virtual assistants.
The worst things you can do to your virtual employee
Your employee depends on his work for you and trusts you to treat him fair and square.
There are not much more ways to hurt your assistant, both financially and emotionally.
- Firing a person without further notice
This will leave him in the rain, and he’ll lose time trying to figure out what happened (he may assume that there was a technical glitch) or trying to convince you not to fire him.
- Lack of communication by not exchanging your thoughts with your virtual assistant
How can your VA learn how to best do the work for you if you don’t tell him? Take the time to instruct your VA of what you want.
It doesn’t even need to take that long: a quick video using screen recording software takes minutes and can clear up tons of misunderstandings instantly.
- Shouting or insulting your employee
You know this would be wrong if you had a person right in front of you.
Don’t go there. It’ll make you look weak and will lower your self worth. And it’s rock bottom even for bad business ethics.
What good are you as an employer if you raise your voice against someone working on the other end of the world? Especially if he or she comes out of e.g. an Asian culture, where politeness and respect is of highest importance?
- Badmouthing your VA
It’s perfectly possible to fire someone and leave him an unnecessary evil feedback to “get back at him”. You won’t gain from it.
It’s possible to hide excessively bad feedback on most outsourcing companies’ feedback scores. Also, you might be kicked off from the outsourcing service.
And honestly, do you want to kick off someone that might know lots about you, your business, and might escalate the revenge even further by attacking you back?
If you follow those bad business ethics when outsourcing, others will know:
oDesk, for example, also has a feedback system for employers, and you’ll run out of prospective co-workers if you are treating them badly.
Be good to your VA’s: They will reward you with excellent results
You will be pleasantly surprised how far a few nice words, some praise here and there and constructive criticism will bring you and your business. A loyal and motivated virtual assistant might be the biggest asset you’ll ever have.
Bad business ethics will always come to bite you in the end.
What if your virtual assistant has been bad?