For years (decades, more accurately), we’ve all subscribed to the status quo idea of how work should be – a 9-5 office experience with break rooms, water coolers, and cubicles.
That is, until companies like BELAY came along, taking the landscape of what was and transforming it into what could be, forcing everyone to sit up, take notice, and shift focus to evolve workplace ecosystems.
But such an extraordinary disruption does, of course, come with a learning curve. Can most people do their exact jobs from home – or anywhere? Sure. What is less decidedly clear, however, is how to do jobs collaboratively. Sure, there are emails and phones to connect us all, but that isn’t quite enough to replace the break rooms, water coolers, and cubicles of yore.
So as you settle into, oh, only the future of workforces, the shift in physical location also requires that we shift our processes, too, in order to maintain – or dare we say, improve – efficiency and productivity.
And since we know a thing or two about virtual employment, we’ve got a library of resources written on just about every facet of making the transition.
Here are five tips for working with your virtual assistant:
Communicate, Then Communicate Some More
At BELAY, we over-communicate – meaning we embrace the ‘virtual nod’ to let people know we’re ‘on it’ since we rely so heavily on email and instant messaging. A clever approach to maintain the human element of culture is to remember to use ‘email as the pillar, and instant messaging as the glue.’ The same goes for expectations. Set them, communicate them clearly, and then wash, rinse, and repeat as necessary.
PRO TIP: Whenever possible, try to cater communication to the style(s) each employee prefers to help them stay connected in a manner that best suits them. While some may prefer more video conferencing, others may prefer written communication – and recognizing those individual preferences will go a long way to let them know you care.
Delegation – effective delegation specifically – is mission-critical. And as more organizations move toward a remote workforce, leaders must be adept at delegating. But delegating isn’t easy – it takes practice and commitment, and can be the difference between accelerated growth and stalling out. Here’s how to do it right:
1. Know Your Own Process. You can’t teach – or effectively delegate – something you don’t know and understand yourself. Often, people would rather muddle their way through something without a clear understanding in order to save face, so make sure both you and those involved understand your expectations and provide the necessary training to set everyone up for success.
2. Discuss & Assign Projects. Host weekly one-on-one calls to proactively discuss delegated projects, questions, or concerns. Further, consider bi-weekly or monthly all-calls with everyone on your virtual team to update each initiative’s status and address any questions to get – and keep – everyone on the same page.
3. Use Collaboration Tools. A recent survey from Software Advice found that 38 percent of respondents named communication as their key issue when working on a virtual team. Calls, texts, or voicemails work fine for casual conversations, but to emphasize a deadline or celebrate an accomplishment, virtual collaboration tools like Basecamp and Slack work well.
4. Details Matter. Be sure to document everything – maybe in a collaborative project management platform like Trello or Basecamp – in order to create a chain of communication that everyone can reference. There, everyone can upload emails, documents, images, and other files so everyone can access them as needed.
5. Be Inclusive. When there are important decisions to make or tasks to complete for a particular project or initiative, be sure to include all involved parties on emails. This will serve to not only let everyone know what has been completed and by whom, but will also help remote employees stay aware of the status of each project as it’s handed off.
6. Divide-and-Conquer. When it comes to delegating effectively, it’s important to remember that each person on your team plays an invaluable role in the completion of projects, tasks, and initiatives. Be sure to break each into smaller deliverables so people can get in where they fit in. Successful delegation is a matter of choosing the right tool – or employee – for the job.
7. Now… Let Go. If you’ve successfully navigated the first six steps – congratulations! That was the easy part. This last step is essential, but also the most challenging. From this point on, it’s imperative to have faith in your delegation process and people. And while it may be hard to let someone else take the reins, you’re so primed to delegate effectively and successfully because you’ve adopted the 70-percent rule.
Complete mobility and accessibility have made us more productive, but interestingly, it’s often equally counterproductive. So what can we do to drop the ‘counter-’ and get back to good old-fashioned productivity?
Two words: Time management. Here’s how:
1. Delegate. Smart – and productive – leaders adopt the 70-percent rule that says ’ … if the person you’d like to perform the task is able to do it at least 70 percent as well as you can, you should delegate.’ If you’re still unsure about when to delegate, ask yourself these questions.
2. Prioritize. Every morning, make a list of those items that need your immediate attention. Anything that can wait, should.
3. Monotask. In today’s whirling, must-have-it-yesterday society, we’ve been indoctrinated with the belief that multitasking is the only ‘-tasking’ – but more often than not, we do better when we focus on one thing at a time.
4. Start Early. There’s a reason the early bird gets the worm – they’re up-and-at-’em before all the other sleepy birds – and it pays off. Most successful professionals have one thing in common: They start their day early to have time to quietly plan their day.
5. Interval Work. Try organizing your workday into 15-minute segments as that’s often long enough to get something done – and short enough to find that time in your day.
PRO TIP: Schedule meetings at 15 minutes past the hour and end them on the hour. In three 15-minutes ‘chunks,’ people can often accomplish in 45 minutes for what they think they’ll need 60 minutes.
6. Say No. Seriously. It’s OK. Politely decline additional tasks if you’re already overloaded with work. And if you think you can say ‘yes,’ make sure to review your list of priorities first.
7. Avoid Distractions. Resist the urge to check unrelated distraction – Hello, social media! – while you’re working. And if your fingers’ social media muscle memory is too hard to override, consider leveraging some programs like SelfControl, Freedom, StayFocusd, and Anti-Social, which block access to the sticky, slippery wormhole parts of the internet for specified periods.
PRO TIP: Work on just one screen at a time. If you’re on your computer, keep tablets, phones, smart watches, carrier pigeons and all other tempting distractions out of reach.
8. Know When You’re Done. Just as you instinctively know when to stop eating, continuing to work on something when your brain is clearly circling the drain is a significant time-waster. Often, you can actually complete the task faster by taking a break and allowing your brain to switch gears for a bit.
9. Recognize ‘Bonus Time.’ Rather than be frustrated to learn that your flight has been delayed or an appointment is running late, learn to shift your perspective and view these ‘inconveniences’ as opportunities to tackle smaller, lower-priority tasks that have been nagging you, like responding to an email or returning a call.
10. Give Yourself Grace. We will all occasionally be distracted by something shiny; we are, after all, human. Accept that you will make mistakes, become distracted, or have an overall unproductive day – and accept that it’s really OK. Mistakes are proof that, at the very least, we’re trying. So recommit to getting back on track tomorrow with a clean slate. It happens.
Choose The Right Tools For The Job
When it comes to not only working with a VA but also making sure you run your business as effectively and efficiently as possible, it’s important to make sure to choose the right tools for the job. So while there may countless tools and technologies out there, all boasting the same value proposition of being the silver bullet you need, it’s worth weighing your options and making that determination yourself.
1. Project Management
Project management tools are mission-critical – and, thankfully, abundant. So while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, choosing the right tool can prove challenging. This article lists 10 project management tools for your review so you can be sure you’re choosing the right tool for your business in 2019.
2. Communication & Collaboration
With technology, employees can now work from anywhere at any time that suits them, making internal communication and collaboration tools all the more critical to maintaining engagement. But like project management tools, the – good – problem is that there are so many from which to choose. Thankfully, this article lists nine online communication and collaboration tools that encourage and enhance team communication and productivity.
According to Forbes, ‘automation is the way of the future; not just in the American workplace, but globally. Currently, about 60 percent of businesses could have one-third or more of their business processes fully automated by modern technologies. As those technologies continue to improve, these numbers will only grow.’ Still not convinced? Consider our veritable Ode To Automation here.
This one should really be first since regardless of industry, job, or whether you work in a brick-and-mortar office or virtually, remembering that what we all do inevitably impacts and affects other human beings.
Both you and your VA are new to your partnership – so you will both be experiencing the same learning curve, albeit on opposite sides of the equation. Remember that on the other side of that screen is a person – a person who, incidentally, has chosen to partner with you to help your business thrive.
Those qualities that we consider to be inextricably human – sociability, empathy, compassion, kindness, patience, adaptability and a willingness to learn – will be the key to the success of your partnership. Unlock those and the sky’s the limit!