Head of the Permanent Division in our West End office, Missy Shutt-Vine, interviews the Founder of Collaborative Future, Tessa Cooper, about practical tips employers can use to ensure their teams stay productive and connected throughout this period.
Working virtually as a business assistant can offer a flexible and rewarding career for the right candidate, but do you know what this role actually involves? We spoke to Allison, an experienced virtual assistant (VA), to break down a typical day supporting her clients.
6:30am: Although no day is the same, I usually try and sift through online news first thing in the morning. As a lot of what I do includes consulting and market research for my clients, it’s extremely important that I stay abreast of any trends that could affect business.
7am: I take the time to enjoy a decent breakfast before I start work in my home office. I make sure that I keep a physical split between my work and home life, even though I am working at home. My office has been decorated with things to inspire me, whereas my bedroom offers a place to relax and unwind.
8am: After breakfast, I make my way to my desk and start checking that all-encompassing inbox! Luckily as I no longer work in a corporate environment, I don’t get bogged down by all the corporate mass communications.
At the moment a lot of what I do is travel related, which is where elements of a traditional personal assistant role comes into being a VA. I make reservations and itineraries for my clients, which could include anything from booking in a wine and dine experience to organising a few rounds of golf.
9am: I normally try and schedule virtual meetings in the morning so that if it requires urgent action, I can do it later that day. As I work virtually, my meetings are held via Skype, but luckily modern technology means that file sharing, tracking conversations and meeting notes can be quick and easy. I can find it quite lonely in my home office, so I prefer interacting via video call to feel like part of the human race!
10am: After my meetings, I can prioritise my work for the rest of the day. Working virtually means I must balance my tasks effectively. Normally, I work on a first in, first out basis, however there are always exceptions when it comes to urgent work. It also depends if that work has come from a client with whom I have a long-standing relationship – I am happy to slot them in where necessary. Knowing how long preparing a presentation will take me over putting together a sales report is something that has come from experience, and it allows me to structure my day. A great VA will be able to turn around an important deadline very quickly!
11am: Unfortunately, work from clients is not always constant, which is why it’s important to take on work where you can and use your existing clients to forge relationships with others. It’s also imperative you recognise your star clients and give them a reason to keep coming back! Today, I’m working on developing my relationships with my smaller clients by over-delivering and turning around their work quickly, as clients value speed and quality. You must work hard to build relationships, as you’re also building trust – when your client is on the other side of the world, you must work a lot harder to prove to them that you can do the job efficiently and effectively.
12am: I spend a decent amount of time surfing the web for all sorts of industry news headlines, which often turns into market research, even if it isn’t on my to-do list. As a VA, knowledge is power, and many clients don’t get to do this themselves because the time isn’t available to them.
1pm: It’s lunchtime! I usually take tea breaks at my desk throughout the day, however when I take time of lunch, believe it or not, I enjoy hanging up washing outside. Different strokes for different folks I suppose, but I really appreciate having the freedom to stay at home during the day.
2pm: One of my biggest clients is a hotel and property company in Portugal, so I find myself blocking out some time to consult on their marketing needs including gathering details, helping create their online profile and managing reservations and bookings.
3pm: While I completed traditional PA tasks this morning, I’m now engaging my experience in business and marketing, which goes above and beyond the role of a standard VA. I see my relationship with my clients as a partnership as I treat their business as my own. I offer a sounding board for executives, adding value and validating their thoughts from a fresh angle. I find myself consulting on anything from sales to marketing strategy, presentation to competitive analysis.
4pm: I do a final check of my email, and because I’ve been on top of communications throughout the day and responding accordingly, luckily my inbox hasn’t been flooded! As a virtual assistant you operate more than one mailbox, so managing this does take some savvy.
5:30pm: I end my day by planning tomorrow’s tasks and I try to get ahead of these where possible to work smarter, not harder. With time you learn how to flag for importance and how to structure priorities properly – this can give you a lot of time back. For me, it comes with experience of having worked across industries and with different executive profiles.
6:30pm: My work day ends at around 6:30pm, however I often work flexibly around specific tasks and deadlines and am in communication with people in other time zones, so being a VA means you must commit to odd hours. In addition to this, if a last-minute task came through, I would drop everything and work late into the night. Those situations make me appreciate a more structured day like today!
7pm: It’s important to stay active and social when you’re working from home, so either before or after work I regularly engage in fitness sessions. Today I’m actually going to play a game of ladies’ doubles tennis, which makes for one of my favourite ways to add some physical and human interaction to an otherwise virtual day.
If you’re looking for a virtual position, or would like to hire a virtual assistant, contact Tiger Virtual at our West End Office.