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What is a virtual phone number – and should you get one?

From globalisation to the increase in remote working, we look at why virtual phone numbers are on the rise, and how they can improve the way you live and work today.

What is a virtual phone number – and should you get one?
More people are realising the benefits of having a virtual phone number. Photo: Getty Images

One of the great benefits of the world’s technological advances that we enjoy today is communication. No, not TikTok – though it has its place – but the improved cost, convenience and flexibility of phone calls and messaging. 

The days of baulking at the cost of making an international call from your work phone, or paying for an expensive public payphone card to call home while travelling are long gone. 

More and more people – from those living abroad to travellers to business owners to workers – are using virtual phone numbers to save money, work remotely, run businesses and communicate across the globe in ways that were simply not possible in decades past. 

Together with telecommunication provider Zadarma and its nomadic entrepreneur and co-founder Dmytro Tokar, The Local fills you in on what a virtual phone number is and why this easy and inexpensive piece of tech is worth adopting. 

So, what is a virtual phone number anyway?

Instead of needing a fixed and physical connection, a virtual phone number is cloud based and uses the internet. This means you can use the number for calls and messaging from any device that has internet access. 

Calls can be redirected or routed from the one number to another device, IP address or number. So the same number could be seamlessly carried from the phone in your office across to your mobile phone if you are out and about, for example.

“You can think of it as a regular phone number with additional perks. It is easy to connect a number from another country, calls will be coming in via the internet and the caller will never feel the difference,” explains Zadarma’s Dmytro.

Whether for work, life or travel, learn more about virtual phone number services from Europe’s leader in business phone systems, Zadarma

Why get a virtual phone number?

For travellers and people living internationally, avoiding roaming charges and enjoying cheaper call rates is a big bonus. 

Using a company like Zadarma, for example, setting up a virtual phone number takes just five minutes – so it is very easy to be up and running quickly and from almost any country in the world. 

“At Zadarma, we take safety and security of our services and clients very seriously, so there are no risks associated with virtual number connection. Having a number in a different country can be beneficial for a variety of reasons from bureaucracy and banking to getting a call from your food delivery service,” says Dmytro.

Remote worker benefits

At Zadarma, many staff members work “nomadically”, something that Dmytro is very familiar with himself. It’s a set-up that suits the business and employees and hasn’t changed their performance, he says.

“We do not see the reason to limit our employees in any way. Some currently live and work from other parts of the planet.”

The key to making it work? Communication. “Communication cannot be overrated when it comes to remote employees. There can be months before meeting a new employee, but making the effort to establish a connection can ensure that everyone on the team is working towards advancing the company.”

For entrepreneurs like Dmytro, using Zadarma’s own communication tool and virtual phone numbers means he can connect all his employees to the one network, no matter where he or or his workers are based. 

And Zadarma is obviously not alone in this way of working – 69 percent of 1,300 CEOs surveyed in 2021 are moving toward a virtual workforce, according to KPMG.

Virtual phone numbers are particularly well-suited to remote workers, startups, remote companies, and people, whether working or not, who are regularly travelling. 

Click here to set up your virtual office in five minutes

Business benefits

In today’s modern world, where people are often not working from a fixed office, it is important for companies to adapt and use the tools available to them. 

“Work processes will never be the same. For most companies, the lockdown has proven that having all employees working from the same space is not a key to success,” says Dmytro.

“I believe the most important tool of all is a communication tool. Finding the one that can both accommodate the changing lifestyle of a firm’s employees and maintain quality communication standards within the company and with clients can be challenging, but it truly makes all the difference. That is why for the past several years we have been focusing on making Zadarma’s offering ideal for companies with all types of needs.”

Using a virtual phone number for your business means you can assign the number to a specific region, which is beneficial if you are running your business across more than one location but still want to establish a local or regional presence. There is flexibility but customers feel reassurance and trust in calling you. Professionalism is established and exorbitant long distance phone call costs are non-existent. 

Zadarma’s flexible business solutions mean connecting yourself or your team, with easy integration to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and messenger programs. 

Safety and security

Working and living across borders, accessing devices in different locations using free wi-fi and the onslaught of people using digital tools with malicious intent can all lead to data and security breaches. 

Having a virtual phone number is an extra level of security to put your mind at ease. It means you can still be reached on your personal device, but without potential mobile hackers seeing your private number. 

“Being cautious can go a long way in protecting one’s privacy and securing the data. The internet can be a wonderful place with a variety of free tools but you always have to note how your information is handled,” cautions Dmytro.

Learn more about Zadarma’s affordable and easy virtual phone numbers – 30,000 numbers are available in 150 major cities worldwide, and they offer 24/7 support in seven languages

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

‘Hard to know your rights’: three quarters of foreigners in Sweden afraid of losing job

With Sweden's economy likely to dip into recession next year, more than three-quarters of respondents to a survey by The Local have said they are "slightly" or "extremely" worried about losing their jobs.

'Hard to know your rights': three quarters of foreigners in Sweden afraid of losing job

Out of 53 respondents to our (highly unscientific) survey, 28 said they were “slightly worried” about losing their job and 13 “extremely worried”, with the remaining twelve saying they were not worried at all. 

Most of the foreign workers who weren’t worried either work in industries or companies expected to weather any downturn or have skills, such as IT programming, of which there is a shortage in Sweden. 

“I work in an area of IT that helps businesses reduce costs, so I expect my employer to be busier,” wrote Geoff, who lives in Stockholm. “I keep myself updated with the latest trending technologies,” added Sachin, who like Geoff works in IT. 

“My skills are needed in both Sweden and all over the world, and the company I work for can use my skills on those contracts,” said one American software engineer. 

Those who were more worried mainly worked in other fields.

One employee for a Swedish religious aid organisation said that a tenth of the staff had recently been made redundant, with a further 25 percent resigning in protest, and that he, as a result, now felt his position was insecure.  

READ ALSO: How will Sweden’s Employment Act reform impact foreigners?

What measures have people taken to make their financial positions more secure? 

There was a clear division among the survey’s respondents between those who have permanent residency, Swedish citizenship, or EU citizenship, and those who are employed in Sweden on a two-year work permit. 

“I am still waiting for my permanent residence permit,” said one. “There is a rule that requires you to be a permanent employee both at the time you apply and when the Migration Agency makes a decision. Current processing times are around six months and this creates a lot of uncertainties. If you lose your job while waiting for a decision, you will lose your right to permanent residence and it’s not clear how much time you will have to find a new job.” 

Although many of those on work permits were still members of an a-kassa, Sweden’s heavily subsidised unemployment insurance organisations, they said that they feared they would not receive the full benefits if they were made unemployed, as they risked being forced to leave Sweden. 

“If you are a permanent resident or citizen, the employee benefits from a-kassa and unemployment insurance is quite good,” one wrote. “But this doesn’t apply if you are on a temporary work permit. In that case, you will still have to leave the country in three months if you can’t find a new job and I am not sure if you can continue receiving unemployment benefits once your work permit expires.” 

A few respondents said that they had taken out additional insurance on top of their a-kassa membership, so they would replace their full salary if made redundant, while others said that they had joined the union in their workplace. 

However, a significant number of the respondents said they were relying mainly on their own private protection, with several saying they had reduced their spending to build up a cash buffer, others saying they had built up an investment portfolio. 

In addition, many said they constantly sought to improve their value as an employee through in-work skills training, working hard and making themselves indispensable. 

How did respondents rate the employment protection in Sweden? 

In general, respondents rated the system of employment protection in Sweden quite highly, with the 53 respondents rating it at seven out of ten, on a scale from “poor” to “excellent”. 

Source: Typeform/The Local

Strong employee rights and a fairly equal health system are important elements of Sweden’s system,” wrote one respondent approvingly, while another said it was a comfort to know that “there is a process that is more or less in your favour”. 

Several respondents added, however, that the system was confusing and difficult to navigate for foreigners. 

“Coming from a country where employment laws are written to protect the employer, it’s hard to know all of your rights in Sweden, said one, while another said the employment protection laws were “hard to navigate as an immigrant”. 

Some questioned how useful Sweden’s unions were when employers were abusing the system, with the charity employee saying he was “not impressed with the Swedish union model” on the basis of his experience. 

“The effectiveness of the union depends too much on inexperienced, ineffective local staff, and unions do not have real teeth they can use in a case where an employer just ignores them,” he argued.

“As strange as it sounds, an employer that is not negotiating in good faith can just ignore and exhaust union demands and complaints. The union is reluctant to take things beyond sending written complaints to the employer. Even in cases where age discrimination occurs, the penalties are so small that claims are not worth pursuing.” 

Are foreigners planning on taking advantage of the new opportunities for retraining? 

Under new employment reforms which came into force in October, employees in Sweden are entitled to special loans for retraining courses, called omställningsstudiestödet. All employees can from this month apply for a loan for courses starting in January.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would be interested in taking advantage of the new scheme. 

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