According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, Americans over the age of 64 are working more than any other time since the turn of the century. According to a survey by the AARP, 74% of older Americans would want work flexibility and 34% would like to work from home. Steadily increasing life expectancies and inadequate retirement savings have forced many Americans in this age group to delay retirement. Others choose to work into their 70s and beyond to stay active and engaged in their communities.
Movies and TV shows from the likes of Devil Wears Prada to Rules of Engagement make us laugh and feel sorry for the personal assistants. Their lives are consumed by ego-maniacal tyrants paying them no more than a couple of funny pennies per hour. Luckily, apart from the odd unfortunate exception, the reality is much different. Yes, sometimes personal assistants are asked to do menial tasks ranging from the humiliating to the humdrum, and they are often asked to be on duty round the clock, but it usually pays off in more ways than one.
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A recent study at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K. found that married people who work from home are happier than traditional workers. The conclusion that working at home could make you happier if you’re married is based in part on housework and home-based chores. Married remote workers reported feeling there was a fairer and more gender-neutral division of work done around the house. The study was based on responses from thousands of workers based in Switzerland and the U.K. The study found that “working from home made married couples perceivably happier, although there was no effect on the love life of single employees in the U.K.”
Managing email: To keep you from wasting time in your email inbox, some virtual assistants will filter your most important emails and respond to the rest on your behalf. Such email management is easy to do remotely, but you need to provide guidance on how to pick out key emails and ask the assistant to copy you before sending out any responses to reduce the risk of errors.
Stats about remote work show that 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels, according to one study, and that’s a good thing not only for remote workers, but for the companies that employ them. The study by PGI, a leading provider of software services, found that 80% of workers reported higher morale when working from home, while 69% reported lower absenteeism.
Customer Service Representative – For a busy entrepreneur, customer service is a great task to outsource to a virtual assistant. You can forward calls to your virtual assistant, and they can become a virtual call center designated specifically for your business. With the enhancement of technology, there are companies such as Ring Central that make this an easy option for small businesses. Additionally, the virtual assistant can handle any follow-up calls as needed.
The answer is you hire someone. You trade with someone. You trade them for two hours. That’s what I did in the beginning. Because I remember… I was just really young in my career, very in the early days, and I was running to get to the dry cleaners so I could get my only two suits because if I didn't get them, you know, then the place closes and I can’t get on the plane.
They’re more work to manage and have a time overhead compared to someone at the office is a big part. It’s also easy to forget and ignore remote workers and it can be harder to evaluate their productivity. A culture that has a mix of remote and non-remote has the remotes pretty isolated as the normal way of communicating things has them left out. (source)
To sum it up, there are a lot of valid reasons managers and agencies shy away from remote workers. It’s hard to blame them. However, for those who want to give a distributed team a shot, there are avenues and tools for you to try. I encourage anyone on the fence about remote work to try it out by starting small. Hire a freelancer or independent contractor, or give your team one or two days a week to work remotely. See how it goes (and share in the comments).
All businesses accept that when starting out they will at some point require additional support. Most often the first consideration is employment of additional staff. Although this can often be daunting especially with all the red tape surrounding employment and legal requirements. More expense can also be driven into the business with a need for larger office space, equipment such as computers, phone lines etc. This is all before the employee has even started. New staff can also mean re-focusing time and effort inwards rather than developing the business and potentially decreasing revenue at a time when increases are most needed.
Having a virtual office can cause employees to miss out on the social advantage of being in an office. Virtual employees can suffer from the "out of sight, out of mind" effect, in which they could be passed on for promotions or opportunities because they weren't in the office for management to consider them. They also can miss out on networking opportunities which could lead to other options in the company.
Equip your team with knowledge of the basic aims and foundations of your company. Make sure everyone is familiar with the company values enough so that if they need to make an urgent, educated guess, they’re likely to make the right one for the business. For example, do you lean toward transparency or discretion? Do you prioritize action or caution?
Return on investment is the very close cousin of cost-benefit, but in this case, I will apply it in a strictly financial sense, and use my real-life work as an example. My personal assistant, whose name is Eric, does a lot of research, logistics, and planning for me as a journalist. Because he expands my efficiency, I’m free to take on more assignments and make more money. I would estimate that for the $50 investment I make for each week I hire him out, I make twice as much money minimum because of his help. So if I pocket $100 I wouldn’t otherwise make, and pay him $50, the return on investment is $50. Makes sense? (By the way, that’s during a slow week. Sometimes the return on investment is two or three times as much.)
A greater part of the day can be devoted to job duties, projects and other work-related responsibilities because commuting time is eliminated. In some densely populated areas, commuters spend upwards of 10 hours each week just going to and from work. Telecommuters could put to use the saved time by dedicating more of their time to office work, or to achieving a work life balance by spending time with family.
Have a culture of transparency. This allows everyone to get a good grasp of each other’s tasks and responsibilities, which encourages good expectations accountability. It could be as simple as sending a weekly report to a shared channel, or keeping all of the projects in your PM tool viewable for all employees, so they can see what’s going on within the company. If you want to take it a step further, consider revenue transparency or public salaries.
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.)
When you hire locally, there is no choice but to live with the restrictions that come from having a small talent pool. You only get access to a certain amount of potential employees in your own city that may or may not have experience in your work area. However, one of the virtual team benefits is that going virtual will give you the power to hire people from all around the globe.
Provide and nurture an online meeting place. Automattic, the team behind WordPress, developed an internal blog called P2 where everyone can publish posts based on their achievements and how their week went. At Hubstaff, we have a Slack channel for random discussions where we discuss 30-day running challenges (which I supported with good thoughts) and share interesting articles we find around the web.
We've had some very key members of the team wish to move to other locations in the world or country. In one instance, a person's spouse was given a great opportunity in a new location, and the family needed to move to support the opportunity. When someone plans on leaving, a lot of knowledge and investment leaves with them. A remote/work-from-home policy helps resolve this problem. - John Winter, Content Bloom
Cost-benefit analysis is exactly what it sounds like: If it costs you $50 a week to get a personal assistant, what’s the benefit? Let’s say that money buys you five hours of help. You ask the personal assistant to run errands, send mail and attend to tasks that otherwise would prove a time suck on your week. The benefit, in this case, comes in the form of five free hours that you gain from having the personal assistant help out — and you can do anything with that time you like.
I doubt many companies like or prefer that employees work from home. We allow the policy in order to be able to attract employees who would otherwise go elsewhere. We are heavy users of Slack, Confluence and other collaboration tools that make working at home more productive, but they cannot replace the serendipitous interactions that occur while hanging out by the nitro-coffee keg. - Manuel Vellon, Level 11