Expand your team the virtual way

So here you are, running your own business, freelancing, working for yourself.  You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are, to be your own boss, to have more time for the fun stuff in life. But wait? What time? Where did it all go? You’re pretty sure no one told you you’d end up working more hours than you’ve ever worked before!

You need help. But you don’t have an office. Or maybe you do but it’s quite small and you don’t really have room for someone else. Or maybe you only need someone for a few hours a week so having a desk sitting waiting for them doesn’t make a lot of sense. What options have you got?  Well, you could hire a Virtual Assistant and get back that precious time.

But before you rush off and hire that Virtual PA or Virtual Marketing Manager, there are a few things you need to consider. How will you integrate them into your business? How will you communicate with each other? How will you manage them? We’ll get to all that, but first it’s good to understand why it is that people want to work this way.

So why do our VAs want to work virtually?

It is the search for the ever elusive work-life balance that propels many towards working virtually. And what commodity do people need in order to achieve that precious balance? Time. The majority of our VAs used to work in the City. That long, boring, busy commute was not the most productive way for them to spend their time. Plus, it’s expensive. A study from last year cited that UK commuters spend an average of 14% of their income just on getting into work.

So working from home means they no longer care about those train drivers and that 3 day strike they are planning next week, or the fact that the M25 is at a standstill again. Now they’ve ditched the commute, they’ve probably already walked the dog or been for a run before work. Then when it’s time to log on they go to their home office, well rested, relaxed, and ready to get on with their job.

So that’s why many of our VAs choose to work remotely. But what’s in it for you?

Improved productivity

Our VAs tell us that they are a lot more productive since they started working virtually. There are many reasons for this. They aren’t distracted by endless meetings about meetings about meetings. They don’t get sucked into water-cooler gossip sessions which, although fun, are hardly conducive to getting the job done. The autonomy and flexibility it affords them means they simply enjoy their work more. Many work for more than one client too which adds variety and requires that they stay focused, organised, and efficient.

Slash your overheads

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business, you may not have a dedicated office in a swanky building in the middle of town, and even if you do, the more people you fill it with, the more it will cost you. Hiring someone on a virtual basis avoids all of that. Gone are the days when you would have to send an expensive IT guy to their place to set it all up. As long as they have a home, a computer and a wifi connection, they’re good to go.

Talent pool? Try talent ocean!

There is an ever growing number of people who simply don’t want to traipse into an office everyday. Hiring someone to work with virtually gives you access to these people and their skills, as well as those that might not be available in your local vicinity. When we hire our VAs, it really doesn’t matter if they are in London or Birmingham, they can impart their knowledge, wisdom and expertise from their quaint cottage by the sea in St Ives, or from their lovely village townhouse in Crail on the Scottish coast. What we do consider is whether their background, skills and personality are a good fit for you.  

Increased engagement

Google the benefits of working with a virtual team member and you’ll struggle to find an article or blog post that doesn’t sing from the rafters about employee engagement. You might find yourself pondering how that virtual assistant can possibly be as engaged with you and your business as the folk that do come into the office every day. But numerous studies, including this one from last month, have indicated that actually, those that do work from afar have much higher levels of morale.

In it for the long haul

They also tend to stick around longer. Why? Because they are happier, more productive, more engaged. Why would they leave? And it really doesn’t matter if their other half just got offered an amazing job on the other side of the country. Once upon a time that would mean they’d have to stop working with you, but that is no longer the case.

So what do you need to do to make sure that working virtually works for you too?

Hire well

Hire people who take the initiative, are highly independent, positively goal oriented, and love a bit of accountability. The right people will get stuff done, no matter where they lay their hat. And once you’ve got those people on board, make sure you set them up with all the tools they’ll need to communicate and collaborate effectively with you. At Virtalent, we do the hiring for you. We do the interviewing and the background checks, and we make sure they’re the right fit for you. We also give all of our VAs their own email address and access to the G Suite range of productivity tools.

Virtualise your office

There are a lot of products that will help you create a digital office, a space where you and your team can communicate and collaborate despite that guy that does all the social media being hundreds of miles from you, and even further from that woman who manages your expenses and raises your invoices every week. The really good ones will offer scheduling and task management features too. Some of the more well known ones include Slack, Trello, Google Docs, and GoToMeeting.

You can share documents online using products like G Drive or Dropbox, and chat apps are a great way to catch up in a more casual fashion. Email is all well and good and we might once have balked at the suggestion that it is a ‘formal’ method of communication, but as we rarely send letters or faxes these days, email has become just that. Save it for the more important stuff.

Talk regularly

It’s wise to stay engaged with your virtual team members. Set up communication channels and touch base with them regularly, even if it’s just to ask how their weekend was. This will help them feel included, part of the team, and part of your business.

Make them accountable

Be clear about what you want them to achieve, set goals, and try not to worry too much about how those goals are being achieved, just that they are being achieved. It’s about what is accomplished, not how it is accomplished.

Above all, trust them

So you hired a Virtual Assistant. Why? Most likely it was to give you back some of your precious time. It’s only natural that you will want to keep on top of things, to make sure they are doing what they should be doing, but constantly checking in with them is only going to eat into the time that you’re desperately trying to claw back.

All of our VAs are experienced, in fact they have an average of 15 years of experience before joining our team.  They’ve passed our stringent interview process and have been carefully chosen by us for you. So we know that they can do the job you need them to do, that they can manage their own time effectively and that you can trust them.

If they know what is expected of them and when, then all you need to do is let them get on with it and figure out how you’re going to spend all that extra time. 

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