Your business is growing, and you are busier now more than ever. You could use an extra set of hands, so someone suggested that you should use a virtual assistant. However, you have no idea what a virtual assistant is or for that matter, how they can help you. If that is the case, small business owner, it is time for you step into 2014 and become virtual. You will add your business to the growing trend of those utilizing virtual assistants.

In all fairness, despite its glorious perks, being a personal assistant is not for everybody. You often need to sacrifice your own hopes and dreams for the sake of the person you work for, but making that sacrifice might just be the one thing that helps you reach something you never even dreamed of achieving. Just think about Pepper Potts in Iron Man: she started off as an assistant but ended up being in charge of the entire Stark Industries.
It’s hard to dispute: companies and at-home employees alike say remote work is a boon to productivity. Distractions like water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, and loud colleagues are a non-issue, according to an infographic based on data from SurePayroll, a web-based payroll provider for small businesses. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they preferred to work alone to “hit maximum productivity.” What’s more, two-thirds of managers say employees who work remotely increase their overall productivity.
No business is too big or small to use a PA, and with recent technological development with the internet, the new era of PA’s has come in the form of virtual assistants. Virtual assistants work remotely from their own home but undertake the same duties a normal PA would, and this can offer a cost effective alternative for smaller business who need help. So, what does a PA do?  Some of the duties a personal assistant may undertake include email and calendar management, organising transportation, call handling, research and event planning.  As an independent contractor, you might also use a PA for basic bookkeeping and invoicing your clients.  If you are trying to build an online personal brand, PA’s can also help with managing your social media profiles.
Alienation from company. Even if remote workers avoid isolating themselves from other people, they may feel isolated from their company itself. They may find themselves unaware of recent company changes, or feel as though they are the last to hear company news because they aren’t physically present in the office. Some remote workers feel as though they’re overlooked for promotions because they aren’t in the office every day.
There’s an obvious appeal that comes to mind when you first think about telecommuting. Many global companies — including Aperian Global — allow employees to telecommute. The benefits of a remote workforce stem from allowing employees to spend more time in their comfort zones, but does it always lead to increased productivity? Most recent studies point to “yes,” but there are many considerations to make when deciding if telecommuting is right for you or your company.
Depending on the job requirements of the position as well as the employer's personal and business situation, more experience than a high school diploma may be required. Some personal assistant positions may require a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. Also consider whether or not your personal assistant should have relevant experience in a field related to yours. The pay for a personal assistant should reflect the amount of education and experience brought to you. The more education and experience requirements you have, the higher your personal assistant's salary should be.
While I completely agree that co-location can lead to a better collaboration, if not serendipity, in a global world with scarcity in best-in-class talent, organizations should retune themselves to have a distributed workplace. A well-designed distributed workplace enabled by the right technology can make a virtual playground for innovation, if not for highly productive work. - Madhavan Satagopan, Altimetrik Corp
A file-sharing service. Virtual teams need a place to share files. A file-sharing service will allow employees to store, access and share files in a secure location. Dropbox is one major platform for file sharing, but there are plenty of other popular services available, such as Google Drive and OneDrive. If you have highly regulated IT guidelines, it may be worthwhile to invest in your own IT-approved system.
I’ve also never had a full-time nanny for my three kids. I’m not judging others who are making different choices; it’s just not the right decision for me. For one, I don’t want a non-family member living in my house. But more importantly, parenting is my first value, so I want to do it myself as much as I can. (I’m fortunate in that I have a lot of schedule flexibility that enables this.)
From my experience, remote team members have allowed my company to recruit from a larger talent pool worldwide versus being limited to the geographic location where our offices are located. From an employer's perspective, by going the contractor route (versus just remote), you pay for only the work being done, instead of a full payroll, while allowing flexibility and freedom within the position. - Shane Hurley, RedFynn Technologies
Save on Office Space – Since the contractor is virtual, they work off site. This allows you to save on expenses such as ordering a new desk and purchasing a computer. As a matter of fact, they use their own resources. So you save on the space that a new employee would incur. This is a win particularly if you happen to work remotely or independently yourself. You can work remotely and at the same time have the additional assistance you need.
Finding the right fit of personal assistant is essential and a good agency will be able to reduce the time you need to invest in finding that person. They will sort through all the applications for you and guide you along the way. At Polo & Tweed we offer a tailor-made service to our clients to ensure we get the right match for you. There are some great pointers on the types of questions you might like to ask at interview here.

Save on Office Space – Since the contractor is virtual, they work off site. This allows you to save on expenses such as ordering a new desk and purchasing a computer. As a matter of fact, they use their own resources. So you save on the space that a new employee would incur. This is a win particularly if you happen to work remotely or independently yourself. You can work remotely and at the same time have the additional assistance you need.
Employee engagement and motivation. Consider giving remote and office workers surveys to see who is more engaged and motivated overall. Ask questions about how they feel coming to work every day, find out whether they’re inspired at work and ask if they think their role within the company is important. Ask specific questions about whether or not they feel included in group decisions and ask if they feel as though their needs and concerns are considered and addressed.
Better recruitment opportunities. You can select from the top-qualified candidates around the globe for a position if you’re open to managing a remote workforce. Instead of limiting your recruiting opportunities to those who are willing to relocate and those able to make the daily commute, you can focus on hiring the best-qualified candidates without worrying about any geographic restrictions.
Depending on the job requirements of the position as well as the employer's personal and business situation, more experience than a high school diploma may be required. Some personal assistant positions may require a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. Also consider whether or not your personal assistant should have relevant experience in a field related to yours. The pay for a personal assistant should reflect the amount of education and experience brought to you. The more education and experience requirements you have, the higher your personal assistant's salary should be.

Virtual work or telecommuting requires self-discipline, motivation and a tremendous amount of focus. Individuals who do their best work independently are often the happiest with telecommuting than workers who need to have regular contact with others. The managers who supervise telecommuters bear a large responsibility as well. Managing employees remotely can be very challenging, and it is ultimately the manager's responsibility for determining which of their employees demonstrate the necessary skills and traits for performing successfully in a remote location.

Saving on Hiring a Full-Time Employee – A key benefit to using a virtual assistant for your business is the saving aspect. By working with a virtual assistant, you will save on the expense of hiring a full-time employee. This includes the amount of time and money spent on interviewing and training a new employee. This also includes the cost of employee benefits such as health insurance, employee-related benefits, and tax savings. As independent contractors, virtual assistants are responsible for their own bookkeeping and taxes. You will not have to worry about incurring such costs.
Communication on a distributed team is a whole other ballgame. I never realized how much I took co-located colleagues for granted until there was no one beside me I could ask a quick question. Every question, every answer, every approval will be documented on a remote team. This makes for great records, but bulky loads of information to sort through.
Virtual collaboration offers a profound way to cater to employees with diverse working styles. For example, detailed-driven workers tend to excel in virtual environments. They typically have no trouble planning their workday and accomplishing daily tasks. Emotionally driven individuals may prefer to speak directly over the phone or face-to-face in a video conference, because they typically read social cues very well and prefer verbal communication. Idea-driven workers thrive when facilitating change and usually prefer a lead role in brainstorming solutions, so you should consider giving them more responsibility when strategizing in the virtual setting. Data-driven workers are highly adept at solving complex problems. They don’t typically need an extra push to stay on topic or on budget, but they may prefer to work alone quietly rather than lead a virtual group discussion.
If you hire locally in your own city you are greatly restricting the available talent pool that you can draw upon. You can also use the cost savings from virtual teams to pay more to your team members. The combination of being able to hire from anywhere, and potentially pay more will greatly increase the level of talent that you can attract in your business.
Establish an onboarding process. Be sure that every employee who collaborates virtually has the same onboarding experience. They should be given access to the same communication systems and handbooks that explain the company processes. Everyone should be given the same advice and tools for success as they’re brought on board. If possible, it can even be very valuable to have an initial onboarding done face-to-face in an office location.

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