Between New York and the Philippines, there is a 12 hour difference in time zones. On the west coast, there is a 15 hour difference. And for us at Onlinejobs.ph, we operate on Mountain time where there is a 14 hour difference.
One of the constant client issues we get asked at Onlinejob.Ph is this: What are the pros and cons of having virtual assistants in the Philippines work in our time zone?
Sometimes, a business like yours may have no choice but to require the work be done during your work schedule.
For example, to present yourself as the equal of large organizations, you have to provide 24/7 customer service. Another scenario could be that your key ecommerce competitors just extended call-center hours. That means requiring night assignments for your Filipino workforce.
It is also possible that members of your in-house team have determined that in order to meet the deadline, they need just-in-time access to the web developers and designers in the Philippines.
If this is your first venture in outsourcing to the Philippines, the odds are that you want total access in real time to your virtual workforce. You are convinced that in order to communicate with them effectively, it has to be done in real time.
4 Advantages of Working In The Same Time Zone
For some of you, having your Filipino VA work in your timezone might not be necessary. But there are distinct advantages when you know that your VA is working on the same schedule.
This means you and your team in the Philippines can “talk” in real time, whether it’s through the phone, video chat, live chat, or email. Some experts found that 20 percent of communications involved in the critical parts of the project should be conducted by human beings in real time. Anything less could generate unnecessary ambiguity.
2. Clarifying details and specifications.
Most re-work, deadlines not met, and the total failure of the project occur because of misunderstanding about the details. Even for in-house assignments, there is all too frequently ambiguity about the instructions. Operating in real time prevents second-guessing because you can give and respond to feedback right away. You don’t have to wait whether your VA is online or awake. As long as the message is sent within work hours, you can expect a quick response.
3. Immediate course correction.
Issues and emergencies can be addressed right away when you have the entire team online. As soon as problems are seen, you can have everyone working to fix it right away. This is hard when there’s little to no overlap in work schedules.
4. Building trust.
It’s just easier to socialize with your team when you know they’re just one message away. Even though we all love to complain about meetings, it really is one of the ways we connect with each other online.
If you take the time to communicate with your VAs on a daily basis, you will have enough rapport to trust each other eventually. But it is easier to socialize when you’re working on the same thing at the same time. When you’re able to socialize with your team, it’s easier for them to trust you. When you know your team on a more personal level, it becomes easier to also trust them.
4 Disadvantages of Operating in your Time Zone
1. Paying a wage differential.
Shift work is hard. That’s why in most countries, it is required to pay more per hour or add a “night differential” when you expect workers to work the graveyard shift. This is what attracted a lot of Filipino workers to BPOs in the first place. In fact, some seasoned outsourcers even prefer to work outside their time zones because they know they can expect to get more than the standard rate.
2. Limiting access to talent.
Some gifted, experienced workers may be reluctant to work overnight. So you’ll either have to:
- Settle for those who are willing, or
- Figure out the right incentives to entice some really experienced people to do shift work (see #1 above).
3. Possible high turnover.
Frequently, it is not until after workers are hired for shifts outside normal business hours that they realize what it does to their lifestyle. Their entire social network might be disrupted. Feeling isolated from their family and friends outside their work, they will be inclined to quit. This is the top reason for the large turnover in the BPO industry and this kind of turnover is expensive.
4. Threats to health.
Some individuals thrive in unconventional work schedules. But there’s no denying that shift work does make people more susceptible to health problems. Shift work has been linked to a number of diseases ranging from habitual or intermittent insomnia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, stomach problems, ulcers, clinical depression and predisposition to accidents.
One of our employees, Joven, applied to us after he encountered medical side-effects from shift work. He is convinced the regular work hours with Onlinejobs.ph both saved and changed his life.
Outsourcing as work-in-progress
We have a lot of clients here at Onlinejobs.ph who have successfully worked with VAs working in their time zone and outside of it. The key is proper management and understanding the trade offs you will experience with both.
If you need your VAs working in your time zone, you need to keep them motivated. Give them the right tools and incentives so they’re productive even when they’re working the night shift.
If they’re not working in your timezone, know that you will need to be more proactive in communicating with your team. You’ll also need to trust that they know what they’re doing and they’ll keep working even when you’re not watching them.
You can see how other business owners do it. Jill Sessa manages her team while she’s travelling. Marcin, on the other hand, has developed a system that allows him to get a lot of work done from his VAs consistently.
About John Jonas
John Jonas is a long-time outsourcing expert and the creator of OnlineJobs.ph.
Since 2005, John has taught hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs how to profitably delegate to VAs in the Philippines (and get their lives back in the process).
With help from his own VAs based in the Philippines, John has created an outsourcing empire that allows him to work 17 hours/week and to spend most of his time with his wife and 5 kids.
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