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.
According to a Gallup poll in 2007, the average commute time is 48.1 minutes round trip. While the commute by itself may not sound like a long time, there are other factors that can increase this. For example, the time to do things to get ready for work (such as taking a shower, getting dressed and having breakfast) can take another 30 minutes to an hour so adding these activities to the commute time can bring up the "non-work time" to 90 to 120 minutes. An employee can get so much more work done in that time if they did not have to travel into an office. According to the Telework Research Network, companies such as JD Edwards, AT&T and Compaq reported that their telecommuting employees are more productive than their office counterparts.2
Companies are increasingly embracing “remote, agile” teams to complete projects and meet deadlines, according to a study by the freelancing website Upwork. The survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based managers found that the continuing “skills gap” is driving the trend toward hiring more virtual workers. Still, many of those companies have yet to implement a formal remote work policy, the study concluded.
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Of course, there are certain things you shouldn’t outsource or delegate, and not just regarding your workday. Billionaire Mark Cuban revealed on TV show Shark Tank that he still washes his own laundry. I do, too. It would be easy for me to have someone stop in each week to do my laundry or to drop it at the dry cleaning place—but I find it grounding somehow to do my own laundry.

Social Isolation - Many members of virtual teams are adversely affected by the lack of physical interactions. Most of the communications in virtual environment is task-oriented. In today’s society where job is an important social force for most of us because many of our workplace colleagues also constitute our close friends, this gives a not-so-good feeling of social isolation. This in turn counter-effects productivity as well as leads to stress.
Communication is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of business, especially with virtual employees and members spread across all of Indiana. Managing Virtual Teams (MVT) provided workable solutions that could be implemented right away for long term success. I went into the course hoping to grab a few tips and tricks but instead experienced a hands-on workshop that was tailored to my organization's needs. Not only was the course helpful, it was inspiring and gave me a new vision for my organization's communication future.
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.

Virtual work benefits the environment because fewer people are traveling in cars, buses and trains, which lowers the amount of vehicle emissions and decreases fuel usage. In 2007, CNET News published an article touting the benefits of telecommuting with statistics pertaining to congestion and traffic in Texas. Commuters face significant increases in traffic congestion in all 437 metropolitan areas in the United States. Adding up all the associated costs, the Texas Transportation Institute in early 2000 concluded that gridlock cost $78 billion annually in terms of 4.2 billion lost hours, not to mention 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel. That's one convincing argument for telecommuting, especially in an area such as Houston where environmental pollutants are a serious concern.
Small-business owners often wonder how they can work so hard all day and accomplish so little. Much of the problem is an inability to multitask. If you are doing important work in your office but are interrupted by an equally important call or question from an employee, for example, you’re forced to divert your attention away from the original project. In this way, your focus is strained and nothing receives the attention it deserves. A personal assistant can handle these types of intrusions so you can continue to focus on what's most important.
A collaboration and community platform. Virtual workers need a virtual office — a place where they can meet online and hold conversations. It’s easy for virtual workers to become isolated, so a central hub to communicate with colleagues is a benefit. Skype, Slap, HipChat, and Pie are all popular choices. The best collaboration and community platforms connect employees, give them a place to chat and discuss projects, leave feedback and suggestions, and more.
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