Working remotely is fast becoming the norm. For those of us who have been doing this for several years we have mostly fallen into routine. Though even some veterans of virtual work are still not where they should be when it comes to mastering this dynamic.
Due to the recent COVID-19 lockdowns more and more companies are turning to remote work. For many this involves a massive change in working routine especially because you now need to separate work from home, while in most cases working from your dining room table. There is also the factor of family and other responsibilities we may have.
Pre COVID-19 it was difficult enough but once the children had gone off to school and your spouse had gone to work, we were able to settle down for a good few hours of productive work whilst they were gone.
For many the dream of working virtually has turned into a nightmare. Working in your living space is not as idyllic as it may sound. Many of us are confined to houses or apartments with family members, children, or roommates who have their own work or school demands. You are trying to navigate your way around the different tools that are required to continue a smooth flow of productivity and not having the resources you are accustomed to at your fingertips.
Here are a few tips to help you in your transition:
Designate Your Workspace
You may be fortunate enough to have a space that can be created for the sole use of your work or you may not.
The most important thing is to separate your “home” from “work”. So by this it means, don’t work from your bed or in a space that is used for family time and relaxation.
Create a separate corner in your home, however small, and set up a workspace from there. Even if it is the dining room table. In your mind this is the space that is used for working and not leisure.
If the space is needed after working hours then make sure that your tools required for work are moved into a separate corner at the end of each work day and set up again the next day. This might sound like a mission but is actually good practice for your routine.
As wonderful as it may sound to have your children and/or spouse all sitting at the same space and working together, this is not realistic. You each need to have your own space to work with no interruption.
Get up at a reasonable time, the same time every week day.
Get dressed, don’t sit and work in your pajamas.
Start and finish work at the same time every day. Do not go back to your work desk after hours and try to catch up. This tends to be unproductive and you will end up burning out. It is imperative to separate your work from leisure and ensure you switch off from your work and have time to relax.
Have a plan for your day. At the end of each work day set aside 30 minutes to create a task list for the following day. Make sure to follow this as best as is reasonably possible. At the same time, don’t be too rigid.
Try not to overschedule yourself – make sure to include breaks. So have your breakfast before you go into your workspace, take a lunch break in the garden away from your work space. Even go for a short walk to clear your mind.
If you have children who need attention or assistance with school work, this can be worked into your schedule. You can also create schedules for them.
Don’t Get Distracted
Save your social media and social calls with family and friends for after work time. It is very easy to get distracted and when you look again you have spent up to an hour, if not more, on this and it is then very difficult to get back into the mind space you require for work.
Try not to worry about how the house needs to be cleaned, washing done, dirty dishes etc. If you are working from an office this normally waits until you get home. Try to keep the same mindset and put all of the housework as part of your after-hours schedule.
Use Your Virtual Tools
There are many tools available to ensure smooth workflow and help to keep you focused while working virtually.
Use a time keeping tool so that you can see exactly what you have been working on each day.
A scheduling tool is essential to ensure that you know exactly what needs to be done each day and mark off when it is complete.
Communication with your colleagues is still imperative. There are many apps out there which enable us to communicate and share our information virtually to ensure that we are still in communication and there is nothing falling through the cracks.
Make time for healthy habits
If you find that you are constantly back and forth to the kitchen for food and snacks, set up a routine for eating.
Have your breakfast before you start work.
Pack a lunch for the next day and only eat that.
Keep a water jug on your desk and make sure to stay hydrated. If you are going back and forth to the kitchen for water you will be tempted to grab a snack while you are there.
Include exercise as part of your daily schedule.
Take a walk after lunch.
Set your exercise hour for straight after work, so say 4pm, shut down your computer, get dressed and do your exercise. If you don’t do this you will get distracted with chores and other responsibilities and you will be too tired to exercise. It also creates a great break between work time and leisure time.
Your mental health is also extremely important.
Try to meditate for 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening before bed time.
Do not stay up late binge watching TV. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
If you live alone ensure that you do spend time with others.
Yes the initial transition is difficult that is for certain. But it is possible and can ultimately be incredibly rewarding and freeing if done in the correct way.
Don’t expect perfection in the initial stages but continue to work on your routine and eventually it will be perfected. You need to give yourself time to adjust and figure out your schedule. If you keep up your good habits, you will never look back.
I usually work on Bitrix and Asana and build my own project management tool on Excel. It meant moving out of my comfort zone to research project management tools I have not worked with before. I realised one thing while researching these two tools, they are there to make the SME’s and big corporate operator’s work easy and efficient. Now teams can have easy access to software that is cheap and easily accessible with only the click of a button.
Favro is “Collaboration and planning in the cloud” – thus a cloud based application. This is a planning app which is designed to help a team carrying out their complex business plans with ease and efficiency. This software can especially be used by marketers, production planners and developers because it offers some intuitive and easy to use features for activity planning. Developers also love it because it is fast and modern, staying up to date with current and relative tools.
Favro provides the following key features:
Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with Favro?
TeamGantt is “An online Gantt Chart Software“. This online project scheduling software lets users manage their projects easily and visibly. It has built-in resource management, so they can see what each person is working on any given day.
TeamGantt provides the following key features:
Drag & Drop Simplicity
Change start and end dates
Which tools often used by Virtual Assistants integrate with TeamGantt?
A free plan is only available for 3 users and 1 project. The varying payment plans starts with 3-50+ users and unlimited projects.
Looking at the above, both tools are great and make life easier with freeing up time when used effectively. Both of these project Management tools work for both small to bigger businesses. TeamGantt provides more integration and a free plan for small businesses. It can also be used more by my virtual industry.
I am however a “work on your mobile” girl and is leaning towards Favro. TeamGantt does not support mobile platforms. Favro can also incorporate spreadsheets………….. It seems I found my next tool to test!
The pandemic and the predictions of recession has small business owners worried about the future. Working remotely is a new model for many; and this has it’s challenges and complications.
Did you have days where you just don’t get to everything you need to before Covid 19 put businesses at risk? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed because you are spending too much time trying to run a virtual office? Do you need extra help and processes for working with a virtual team?
You may not want to make the commitment of having to hire a full time employee, but you desperately need help with planning and positioning your business for the future.
If this is you, then hiring a virtual assistant is your answer!
I actually had a new client the other day ask me this very question. I couldn’t help but chuckle because the Virtual Assistant concept, although already known by many companies and industries throughout the world, is still also a fairly unknown concept for many business owners. A virtual assistant can be defined as an independent contractor who provides administrative services to clients while operating outside the client’s office and who can access planning documents remotely.
Like any other employee you would hire, virtual assistants have different skills sets. Some are admin superstars, other are creative geniuses when it comes to putting together marketing content for your business and you even get those number crunching enthusiasts that are ready to come in and make your month end look like a walk in the park! Pretty awesome hey?
Still not convinced…
If your still not sure a virtual assistant would be right for you, here are some reasons why a virtual assistant is a good idea…
Less investment – Yip, you read right! No office space and equipment will save you a considerable amount of money
Saves Time – Recruitment requires time and money. A virtual assistant will be available as soon as you need them for as long as you need them.
Reduce Expenses – Again no office staff requires no fixed monthly salary and benefits, you simply pay for the work done by the virtual assistant.
Peace of Mind – While your Virtual assistant works in your business doing the things you simply don’t have time to or don’t know how to do, you are able to use your time focusing on what’s important to you. Giving you freedom of time and peace of mind that things will get done.
When you take the risk to start a business you put a lot of time and energy to make it a success. You’ve done so much already, so now it’s time to show yourself and your business some love and hire a virtual assistant that will help take your productivity and business to a whole new level.
One of the greatest lessons in life is to listen with the intent to understand what is being said, instead of just listening to respond. The best way to listen is with your mouth shut. If you’re talking, you’re not listening! Think about it, the word listen and the word silent are spelled with the same letters! In order to be a good listener, we first need to learn how to be silent.
While you’re listening, pay attention to how what you hear affects you, not what you think about it, but how you are personally affected.
Before you respond
When it’s time to respond, consider your intention before you speak. Whose needs are you meeting? Are you trying to look smart or to be appreciated? Or is your intention genuinely to support the other person and to share your sense of connection?
We have all had those moments, when you walk away from a conversation then realise you cannot remember what the person said, wanted you to understand or wanted you to do!
How do we stop thinking while listening? If you want to be an outstanding listener, it’s difficult to do that while you’re constantly thinking about the next response.
Communication is something so simple yet so difficult to achieve. There might be times where you share your issues with someone but you felt that they do not understand you. Worst still, they reply whatever they feel. That happens because they are purely hearing your issues rather than listening to them. That is one of the issues these days. Listen to them, give them your full attention and when you listen you will know what to reply.
If nature gave us ears, it was not just so that we could hear but so that we can also learn to listen. We listen with autopilot on and with habits we have acquired where we do not want others to convince us of things we supposedly already know. We often limit our ability to listen to that which selectively confirms our beliefs.
Here are tips that you can apply to become more active in listening:
Tune out distractions.
STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN!
We need to train ourselves to do this when we listen!
STOP whatever you are doing and pay attention to the details.
LOOK at the person in the eye, watch for non-verbal communication. Slow down and be fully present in the moment.
LISTEN It can be tempting to think about how you are going to reply while the person is speaking, but listening is not just waiting for your turn to speak.
Do not interrupt or derail the person when they are speaking. Be respectful, let them finish their thoughts.
Take an interest in what the person is saying.
Don’t jump from “hear” to “respond” without ensuring you fully understand the situation or issue.
First reflect on what has been said, and then answer.
Wait for a response, don’t feel that you have to fill the space.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. – DR. STEPHEN R. COVEY
What to Expect When Working with a Virtual Assistant
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a person who works remotely – she can sit in an office down the street or across the world. Working with a VA is very different from having an employee sitting in your office. Most Virtual Assistants work for more than one person, splitting their day up between their different clients. Virtual Assistants can assist with anything from general admin, marketing, diary management to virtually anything. The concept of working with a VA is a relatively new idea and so there are things that people are not always aware of.
Communication is key
Communication in this working relationship is key, use emails, WhatsApp, voice notes or weekly meetings. Be mindful that the Virtual Assistant is not in your office and is unable to come into your office and speak to you face to face, should the need arise. When giving instructions to your VA, be sure to provide all the resources that might be needed for the task at hand, together with all the relevant timelines and goals that you as an employer will expect. There should always be an open line of communication.
Work out the process
Working with a Virtual Assistant takes time to perfect. It is suggestible that especially in the beginning, all the assignments that are given to your Virtual Assistant are reviewed and that constructive feedback is given to the VA. This process will allow her to grow in her position and for her to ensure that over time she consistently provides what you are looking for. Never under estimate the power of a few kind words or praise for a job well done. It will do wonders for her self-esteem and will make your VA strive harder to ensure her work exceeds your expectations.
Stay in touch
It is the client’s responsibility to ensure that your VA knows what is expected of her. Regular communication to make sure she is coping and on point, will eliminate unwanted surprises. Having said this, there is no need to micromanage her. This could lead to serious problems down the line and could very well disrupt the relationship between the client and the Virtual Assistant and blur the boundaries as to what exactly is expected of her.
Remember the human touch
Remember that your Virtual Assistant is a person, who also has feelings and emotions. Given that that many clients have never had a face to face meeting with their VA, they forget that she too is a person. When problems arise as they normally do, it is easy get upset and vent their frustrations at their faceless Virtual Assistant.
All in a day’s work
Having a well-balanced working relationship between client and Virtual Assistant is one of the best things a client can do for his business. By the general day to day tasks been taken over by someone else, the client is left free to focus on growing his business without the everyday mundane tasks to contend with.