Remote Work: Tips to remain relevant in the Future Economy
Most of us are familiar with the changes that increase has brought. So it’s no surprise that in the last decade, the number of employees working remotely has increased over 100% globally.
Jobs ranging from salesperson to receptionist can be done from just about anywhere. Other roles, like customer service representative, are often exclusively remote work nowadays.
Onsite work has its time and place.
Companies are finding new and better ways of working. These ways now can save money and even give companies access to rare talent when they use remote workers, as they now have a global pool to source from.
Remote work doesn’t just benefit companies, though. Many individuals can’t afford or don’t want to live in a large urban city, where the best opportunities are. Remote roles also allow these people to learn more skills while earning wages well above what they could get locally.
All that said, remote work isn’t simply a nice option to have or a way to make/save a few extra bucks. It’s the norm now, for both job seekers and those trying to grow a company. Which means that learning how to conduct remote work is not so much about bettering yourself or your company as it is about survival.
The future of our economy dictates that we stay relevant, if we want a part of it.
Some things to consider:
1. As a remote worker you need collaboration tools
Your survival in this area depends on two things: mastering the basics and learning the tools your company or clients use.
The basics are tools like Google Docs and Calendars, project-management software like Trello, and communication platforms like Slack.
Company- or client-specific tools are a little more varied and are industry specific, such as accounting software.
Take the time to master the basics and give yourself an idea of how collaboration tools generally function.
2. The importance of Relationships
You have to connect and sometimes it will be necessary with strangers online, whether that’s through cold email or reaching out to people via social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter – you will need to be comfortable in doing this.
You never know what doors these conversations can open. And the bigger the company, the greater the chances you won’t get to meet everyone in person.
The same rules we use in offline relationships apply: be thoughtful, ask questions, and try to add value. Just because Slack makes it easy to send a bunch of dopamine-fuelled responses in a hurry doesn’t mean that’s great behaviour to adopt. If you want to develop strong relationships online, you have to treat those conversations with as much importance as you would a face-to-face one, and know when to move the interaction to a different medium.
3. Time Management
There are news stories out there about larger companies using things like motion sensors and wearable devices to manage their employees’ whereabouts. Besides being completely creepy and possibly unethical, it also feels counterintuitive to the idea of remote work, where knowing how to manage your own time is crucial for success.
There’s no one trick here. Put parameters in place that will help manage your time.
Many companies help their remote employees with remote work through metrics, which track numbers and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some also set incremental goals for a project. Measures like these allow a company more visibility into their employees’ progress; they also help individual workers feel more on track with their work.
But at the end of the day, if you can’t get work done without having a manager looking over your shoulder, you won’t be able to find or keep a job for long.
4. You never too Old to Learn
The world is changing faster than ever before, and it’s only going to keep speeding up — especially where our work lives are concerned. If you stop learning, you’re going to fall behind. The only hope to get work in the future economy is to keep learning and embrace change.
And change….can be good for you.
What it’s like running a highly successful Virtual Assistant Agency
Running Africa’s largest (and most successful) Virtual Assistant Managed Agency is truly a vision come true for me! I wake up grateful every morning for the opportunity to connect people all across the globe. See where our name comes from? 🙂
Introduction to VA Connect’s CEO
Ola! I’m Karen Wessels, and I’m the very fortunate Founder, Owner and CEO of VA Connect, the only Virtual Assistant managed agency on the African continent. We’ll chat about why a managed agency is so important in a minute.
Let’s start at the beginning. I quit my job, completely out of character, early 2013 and embarked on a truly fulfilling and amazing entrepreneurial journey ever since. I started my business as a sideline project back in 2008, hence being the VA Godmother in South Africa, and was able to work full time as an entrepreneur from 2013. Believe me when I say that the market was very green back then with regards to outsourcing work and I’ve witnessed a remarkable spike in VA demand in the last 2 or 3 years.
Back in the day it was me, and I alone that did all the tasks, working from early morning, well to early morning. Fortunately very quickly I was enable to enlist the help of another highly organised person, who also happens to be my mom (bless!) and we’ve grown in size and reach every year, year on year.
Virtual Assistant Managed Agency
As the only Virtual Assistant Managed Agency on the African continent we take the managed services side completely out of your hands. What this means is, we are responsible for the hiring, firing, up-skilling and taking care of our Virtual Assistants. You get to hire wonderful outsourced help and we are there to ensure that we match the right Virtual Assistant to your account.
Remember, your VA becomes an integral part of your team, so it’s very important for us that you get on with your Virtual Assistant and that she continuously adds value to your business life. After all, that’s why we’re there.
We are so blessed to have highly experienced and truly lovely ladies on our team. We are surrounded by great people with a winning mind-set and a can-do attitude, which spills over onto our client’s side, making them super happy and not wanting to leave our services. In fact, some of our clients insist on paying their Virtual Assistants a bonus as a way of thanking them for all their hard work. See what I mean when I say we’re surrounded by greatness?
Where to from here for our Virtual Assistant Agency?
Outsourcing of work and remote workers are on the up and up. Because we are based in South Africa we are perfectly positioned for overseas clients.
Our Virtual Assistants are native English speaking, come from executive backgrounds and are renowned to be hard working and willing to go the extra mile. We are blessed to service clients across the globe, spanning from San Francisco to New York, from Dublin to London, from Oslo to Singapore, Australia and everything in between. How fortunate are we?
We see ourselves gaining loads more traction in the next 2 years with a view to becoming the world’s leading Virtual Assistant agency that connects people with people.
As the remote workforce increases in size and well, in force, the demand for Virtual Assistants and to be come Virtual Assistants will be on the rise.
Already so many corporate team members are working a few days a week from their home office, so it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a reality for more people out there.
With this increase in demand for outsourced help, we know that our team will double in size within the next 2 years. This is a very exciting phase of our business and we look forward to the growth potential.
Bringing it together
Starting out as a one man show and already heading towards the 20 strong team member mark, we know that our managed VA agency will grow from strength to strength. As we become recognised globally for our superb service, the ability to outsource work to South Africans becomes easier and more accessible.
We love what we do and we do what we love! Thanks to such an amazing team for making our agency such a success and a force to be reckoned with!
About the Author : As the co-founder of a globally recognized managed Virtual Assistant agency, Karen has been asked to speak about her experiences at many remote working events.
Karen has facilitated and hosted many sales masterclasses, workshops and training sessions to not only boost sales confidence however to also instill sales skills and tools that are personalised to each individual.
Karen is also a sought after speaker at Sales Conferences & Seminars, Secretarial Conferences & Symposiums and Entrepreneur Conferences & Workshops, where she engages her audience with story-like presentations of sales, outsourcing and business.
To learn more or to book Karen, visit her website.
This Is How Baby Boomers Have Rocked Technology
Boy, how things have changed, looking back over my working career that has spanned over 50 years. At the tender age of 18, I was employed as a typist. I thought I was quite the cat’s whiskers to be working with this fancy green machine, the Remington Manual Typewriter. After being taught on a cumbersome Corona typewriter, the Remington was a pleasure to use and an added bonus, no nails were chipped in the process. As a typist we all had to take turns for switchboard which meant plugging in calls by using red and black extension cords. Switchboard relief also included working the telex machine (for those who don’t know what a telex machine is, this was the forefather of the now obsolete fax machine – Woe betide anyone who stood on the ticker tape!)
Progress through the technological ages
Imagine our delight when along came the Olivetti Golf Ball typewriter, no more changing ribbons and black stained fingers. This machine only required you to change a cassette, depending on the font you required, you just dropped in your desired golf ball, modern technology at its best. Funny to think that one would have to type a letter in triplicate with carbon paper in between, get the boss to sign the letter, fold it, seal it, frank it, send it and then know that you had at least 6 weeks to wait for a reply. No such thing as a quick call on one’s cell phone to seal the deal and a confirmation email!
The next amazing piece of technology to delight yours truly was the Wang Word Processor. To my amazement I could type an entire document on a small screen that showed one sentence at a time, hit print, leave my office to go get that all important coffee return to my desk and the letter would be typed. How much further could we advance with this amazing technology? Not only that, but phone calls could now be transferred at a push of a button, no more getting tangled up in all these extension cords.
Enter the world of computers
Cue the forerunner to the modern computer. This piece of machinery was amazing, I could work on my computer screen, get my exercise by running into the cold printing room that housed the main frame computer where all our printing was churned out. This sometimes resulted in fisty cuffs, if you had held up the printing queue, especially when monthly reports were due!
After seeing all the ructions in the printing room, the Guardian Angel of PA’s and Secretaries designed a standalone PC along with you own printer, fax machine, scanner and telephone. Surely it could not get any better, how mistaken could I be! Who would believe that I now work on a laptop and cell phone for someone in another country. Never leaving the house or meeting him face to face. If you had said to me 50 odd years ago I would have laughed in your face. How times have changed!
The top 3 things to do in Gauteng, with young children!
Having 2 young girls who are as active as they are vocal about what they want, like and need (their needs are more like wants, but to them it’s a need) means that I need to ensure that there is always something fun and exciting, active and hopefully educational for them to do!
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
Just this past weekend, with winter on its way, I decided that some fresh air was just the thing we all needed. Along with a great friend and her two young children we set off for the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. The goal was to hike to the top of the water falls. I remember this hike, from back in the day, however on this day I was put to shame by a 4 and 6-year-old, who led the charge up the precarious 3.5 km hike to the water fall. This hike was not what I recalled, and though the struggles were real for me, not having exercised in longer than I can remember, the fun, the perseverance I saw in these young children reminded me that giving up was not an option!! This fun journey should be one that everyone should try at least once. The tranquil gardens, the educational aspect, the fresh air and the quality of time spent with my daughters was an amazing experience.
Second on our list is the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa otherwise known as the Pretoria Zoo. What can I say but WOW. Animals for Africa, huge. A great time out for the entire family! My daughters were able to spot animals all over the place! Unlike the Johannesburg Zoo which feels very run down and desolate, you will find every animal imaginable!! Even the Kangaroo! and leopards, Guerrilla’s, tigers. A fun time, also walked for hours, a gold cart may have been better, but the chance to spend that time enjoying the looks on their faces was the highlight of my day. Revisits are definitely in the cards!
For the young at heart where coordination is not a problem, we Roll eGoli! Roll skating! Not for the feint hearted as demonstrated by myself, where my butt was more on the rink than my roller skates. An immensely fun time, learning a new skill, the music is great, the friendly staff are amazing and the pizza to die for! Parties, or just a casual visit will have you revisiting the 80’s!
I’ve learnt the hard way that trying to find things that we all enjoy need not be the most exhaustive thing to do! With google only a tap away, and my daughters eager and excited faces as we head off on yet another awesome journey is worth more than words can ever tell!
And I did have an ice-cream or 2! How can I not!
5 Top Things to Help with a balanced Home and Work Life
Working from home has so many benefits! It enables you the freedom to work in your own personal space. To be close to your family and children at home. You avoid travel and transport costs, sitting in traffic, high costs of petrol. Yet in the role of a VA requires a very strong ability to prioritize and focus and there are many pressures in trying to find the work home balance within your home.
Create a home office space
First of all it is essential to have an office “space” or your own area where you can dedicate your time to your work with clarity and focus. This space should be organized and clean and make you feel like when you enter it, it is work time! Light and bright and full of fresh air. Put a sign on the door that establishes hours that you operate and keep the door open or closed appropriately. Don’t allow family members to wander into your office with stuff that may clutter your work area.
Use time management effectively
Then it is also essential to allocate your time effectively. If for example you work for a client for 3 hours a day, use Toggl or any similar application to monitor the time that you allocate to this client. Often as a VA you will have 3 or more jobs that you are responsible for and in order to make sure you allocate your time to each client each day, you need to be strict with this time management. The flexibility of working at home is fantastic in this way, as you can allocate your day as you wish. Similarly, you need to keep your household in order. Especially if you have young children, there needs to be set times for meals, breakfast, lunch, bed time etc. This way the family will get to know when it is your work time and not interfere with that.
The lack of social contact with other work colleagues can be difficult as a VA, but with systems like Slack where you can chat to other VA’s it is becoming much more interactive. It is important to utilize these chat rooms and liaise regarding methods of working, new systems, how you are feeling etc. Even just to vent!
Take a break!
Lunch breaks and tea breaks will help to keep the creative juices flowing! Breaks help you get your blood circulating and you will be more productive in the end.
Finding time to get outdoors, and exercise every day is a great way to stay focused and keep energy levels on top form.
Self-discipline is key
Allocate your hours and stick to them….. and when you are finished then clock off for the day and switch off. You need to treat it as you would an office job, and “leave” at the end of the day otherwise you can end up working constantly and this just leads to burn out.
I definitely see this way of working as the way of the future, the way forward. I love my job and the work/family balance is incredibly fulfilling.
It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks
When my company closed down, I found that I was looking for something to do to help keep my grey matter active. I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to be a virtual assistant. They say when someone has been in a job for a long time you stagnate, in that you use the same skills all the time and never stretch your brain to its full capacity. Well in the last two years, boy has my brain been stretched!
Who would have thought that I would have learnt so much? I have gone from being an Executive PA in the shipping industry for more than 40 odd years, to now regularly researching topics that I did not even know existed before. Throw is some computer programming and writing up business plans and synopsis’s and all of a sudden there is a serious need for upskilling oneself.
Having been exposed to new fields, I have realized that in order to do a great job for my client and to fly the VA flag high, I have needed to ensure that I keep up to date with all the new trends in specific markets. Before I would have just looked everything up on the internet and been quite proud of my efforts, however, working as a Virtual Assistant, one does not have the luxury of running into your boss’s office with a question at any given time.
Have the right mind-set
Just the other day I was asked to prepare an online survey, my first thought was HELP! The difficulty is that my client is a very busy man and leaves me with set tasks to do within a specific timeline. I had to research and teach myself how to program a couple of online surveys for him, not only the survey but to get the survey to calculate specific responses and tally them thus connecting them to other screens.
If you had asked me to do this before I became a VA I would have looked at you sideways, however, now I rise to the challenge. After completing the surveys I gave myself a pat on the back for upskilling myself, only to find that the next challenge coming hurtling towards me! This time, my assignment was dealing with finance and brochures. So again I needed put my big girl knickers on and upskill myself in the world of Board Meetings and Award Winning Brochures.
Up-skill yourself as a Virtual Assistant
Apart from my regular upskilling I have realized that I need to take advantage of the free courses offered online through webinars and websites such as Alison and Typeform to name a few. They say education opens up doors and the mind. Here’s hoping that my new found skills will lead to more opportunities. My mind is continually being stretched, and because of this I am able to offer more and I am more confident in myself and my abilities.
My new motto is “Bring It On!”