These days, 60 percent of companies offer their workers options to telecommute. That’s according to a 2016 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey. And by that same year, more than 40 percent of employees spent at least some of their time working remotely.
Clearly, telecommuting is reaching critical mass.
But if that’s not enough to convince employers and managers that incorporating offsite workers in their organization is no longer an experiment, how about this? By Gallup’s estimates, more than one-third of all employees would quit their jobs and take their skills elsewhere if the new position allowed them to work from where they want at least part of the time.
The onsite vs. offsite debate brings unique considerations when it comes to one role in particular – the administrative or executive assistant. Why? Because the concept of hiring a remote assistant who works offsite – known in the industry as a virtual assistant – is still newfangled territory for some businesses.
The Learning Curve
Typically, receptionists, secretaries or executive assistants have represented the “face” of organizations. They were the staff members who greet visiting clients or customers. They served as the friendly voices on the phone. And they were seen as a traditional fixture of established, professional companies.
So, there can be a mental leap involved in re-envisioning how administrative and executive assistants operate, especially as the changing landscape of the workplace leaves many people guessing what’s next. It took some time for business leaders to see that knowledge workers could not only work from home instead of in a central office, but that it could even be more practical. Similarly, the learning curve may be equally long for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even heads of larger outfits to recognize the same roadmap for administrative and executive assistants.
The following four points may help advance the conversation around why it now makes good sense for many organizations to opt for a remote executive assistant. Considering that a general Google search for “virtual assistant jobs” produces 285,000 results, there is no time to waste in joining the ranks of many employers and job searchers that are already on board.
Why Hire a Remote Executive Assistant?
When decision-makers open up to the idea of hiring a remote executive assistant, untapped potential to reach greater talent abound. No longer restricted by geography, businesses can mine talent from across the map. This can be an incredible value-add for businesses in smaller towns or lower-tier metropolitan areas, where the local candidate pool may be shallow or exhausted.
Companies that require specialized skills or capabilities also increase the odds of landing the highly-qualified help they need by casting a broader net. For example, a business might never find an executive assistant with a background in business development, who has advanced Excel skills, solid visual editing chops, a knack for increasing operational efficiencies, and incredible accounting skills if they look only within a 30-mile radius. However, the virtual option makes finding such professional “unicorns” all the more likely.
Working from home has a way of putting the emphasis on what matters most—getting the job done. Research backs this. A 2012-2013 study from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business revealed that call center workers who were allowed to work from home for nine months were 13 percent more productive. They took fewer breaks, had fewer sick days, and took more calls per minute. Participants also reported higher levels of job satisfaction, and the company’s retention of workers improved.
Businesses that include remote executive assistants in their model can realize similar benefits. Sick days, turnover, disengagement, and other pitfalls associated with rigid work cultures have true business costs. The virtual option can ease the burden, alleviate some risks, and introduce quickened pluses in performance.
Engagement and Employee Happiness
Imagine what not having to deal with a commute does for a team member’s total work day and overall quality of life. The Washington Post reported in February 2016 that the average American commute has jumped by 20 percent since 1980, clocking in at 26 minutes. In big cities and major metros with expansive and highly populated suburbs, it gets much worse. And more and more employees are dealing with the challenges of the “mega-commute,” driving 90 minutes or more to report for duty.
Add to this the convenience of wearing ultra-casual clothes, having healthy at-home snacking options just a few footsteps away, and enjoying the relative comfort of working from one’s own residence. The health benefits of remote work can bring advantages to employers as well—again, with fewer sick days, more employee enthusiasm, a positive sensibility that reaches throughout the organization, and even the longer work hours that remote team members voluntarily contribute.
Additionally, research organization Gallup found that remote workers also feel more connected to their employers. In effect they are empowered, sensing that their opinions matter and feel linked to the organization’s mission and purpose.
Did you know that a new cubicle costs about $3,500? Used cubiles go for one-third to half that cost. More modern, better constructed work stations and office partitions can go for much, much more.
But the money businesses save by hiring remote executive assistants extend beyond the initial outlay for a cube. There are also other hard assets, like furniture and office supplies. Associated expenses for on-site employees—particularly for “best-in-class” employers, can include utilities (lighting, heat and air), parking, snacks, beverages, meals, on-site childcare, on-site work-life amenities (car detailing, dry clean services), and even on-site wellness and fitness amenities.
Other factors on the softer side of the equation can be more difficult to calculate. Increased productivity, tenured team members, and employee happiness produce innovation, consistent quality work, and sincere client service that defy estimation.
If you’ve been on the fence about hiring new remote assistants or have been skeptical about allowing your existing team to test it out, maybe it’s time to think again. As these points show, at this stage in time there can be much more to gain than lose by embracing the new possibilities remote workers bring.