As the office environment increasingly becomes a thing of the past – companies can be operated perfectly well from a smartphone or laptop using online resources and making use of short-term office premises when a physical meeting is a must. However, there are occasions when businessmen need some assistance with running their company – assistance that does not quite warrant taking on office rental complete with utilities and insurances, paying a full-time salary to someone who will only work for a few hours each day.
The solution here is a VA or virtual assistant. This is not an AI programme like Alexa or Siri – yet! Rather, it is instead a self-employed person, working from home and using their internet connection to make and receive calls on behalf of their clients. A VA is essentially a personal assistant and the nature of the work often means that a VA can work for several people at once, whether by designating each business a certain amount of time each week or by answering phone calls, taking messages and chasing up contacts – whatever is desired by the clients – full-time. But how do virtual assistants manage to remain professional and motivated while sitting comfortably in their own home?
Our Tips for VA Productivity
The following tips on how to stay productive at work are tailored for home-working VAs but they will also apply equally to home-working (however temporarily) PAs (personal assistants).
Tip 1: Stick to a Routine
Have a set start time, designated breaks and a set finishing time. If you are asked to work longer hours, make sure the client knows that this is a one-off and charge them for the extra time. It is stressful working by oneself, and having more work piled onto you unexpectedly can cause your stress levels to rise. Draw up a very clear contract and once the client has signed on the dotted line, do not hesitate to politely but firmly remind them of your terms and conditions should they become too demanding!
Tip 2: Dress Properly
If you are dressed for work, your mind will be more willing to settle to your office tasks. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule – if you can work efficiently and sound professional while wearing leggings, a baggy T-shirt and a scruffy bun, then go for it! But if you struggle to motivate yourself, dress for the job you have and see your productivity soar!
Tip 3: Chores First
Not your household chores! Tackle the hard jobs first: if you hate filing, get that over and done with as soon as possible, if there is a call you are dreading, make it promptly. If horrible tasks are looming over you, they will spoil your enjoyment of the day and you will actually work slower – putting off the moment of reckoning!
Tip 4: Take a Break
Make sure you have a fifteen-minute tea or coffee break at 11 am and 3 pm, as well as your half-hour lunch break in the middle of the day. Get up, move away from your screen, grab a snack or a drink, perhaps take a short walk around the block and stretch your legs. While you might be conscious of all the work waiting for you, you will come back to it refreshed and ready to go at it with more enthusiasm, rather than slogging through and gradually slowing down, getting tired and perhaps making silly mistakes! Once work is finished for the day, log out of any online platforms, close down your email and turn off your phone if you have one just for work.
Tip 5: Be Organised
Working by yourself, it is very important to know where everything is and to be able to find information at the drop of a hat. Ensure, before you start work, that you have everything you will need at hand, signed in, or otherwise available.
Equally, whenever you leave your desk, make sure that your clients’ information is not vulnerable. Log out of screens, put away confidential documents, and make sure that you do not access social media or potentially vulnerable sites on a device or laptop that you use for work. Separate devices are essential.
Know what work is due when. Get a large wall calendar, run a spreadsheet, or make use of one of the many handy organiser apps that are widely available, filling in the details of each task as you are given it, when it is due by and how much time it will take. This will not only ensure that you do not miss a deadline, but it will also enable you to see at a glance if you have any vacancies for new clients, or if you are fully booked.
Tip 6: Say No
Leading directly on from the last point, do not be afraid to turn down work if you are fully booked. Your clients will not appreciate half-measures and taking on too much will see you becoming stressed and performing poorly.
Tip 7: One at a Time
When you are working on several projects during the same week, keep them separate. Work on Client A’s work for the morning, and then switch to Client B. Multitasking is possible, but all too often it ends up with both jobs not done to your best abilities, you are exhausted, and your clients are less than impressed…
Tip 8: To-Do Lists
Once you have finished work for the day, before you take your work-head off, make a list of everything you need to do the next day. You may think you will remember, but family distractions, an absorbing film, or even a good book might be enough to cause you to forget! Having a list to get on with as soon as you are ready can help with your productivity if you are not a morning person, giving you some tasks to immerse yourself in while you complete the waking up process with a cup of coffee as you work!
Now you know how to improve productivity as a VA – and coincidentally how to boost your productivity when working from home as a PA too! – you will be able to offer your services with a confident and professional approach!
About the Author
Olivia Coughtrie is Co-founder & Director at Oriel Partners a PA and administrative recruitment consultancy based in Central London. Olivia is passionate about making a positive change in the recruitment process.
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