Trust .. you have to have it!
One of the main reasons a virtual assistant is hired, is to lighten your current workload. This happens when delegating some of your work to the virtual assistant. This should enhance your productivity because there are now two people working, instead of one. Furthermore your time is freed up, with not having to do certain tasks, and allowing you to do other projects.
Before hiring a virtual assistant, it is good practice to write down what tasks you are currently doing that will be delegated to the virtual assistant. Keep in mind there are tasks that you have not had time for that the virtual assistant will be doing. Decide how you will communicate with each other.
The web is a great advantage when contracting virtual assistants, because they do not need be local. Your virtual assistant can work from anywhere in the world. The downside is, you have less control whether they are working or not. It is easy to keep an eye on your virtual assistant working in your office; it is not so easy when the virtual assistant is in another country and you communicate online.
When you contract with a VA, you do not want to pay for something you are not receiving. You definitely do not want to invest time and money, to find out later you did not get what you paid for. It is therefore important to be able to check on your virtual assistant, in the same way you would check on employees in a traditional office environment.
How do you know if your virtual assistant is working or not?
There are four methods that will answer this question for you as an employer.
-1- Work Hours and Job Description
If the virtual assistant is on the other side of the globe, it will be feasible to define when and what hours you expect the virtual assistant to work. With the time difference, you will be sleeping when the virtual assistant is working.
A job description or a work sheet setting out what is expected from the virtual assistant can rule out any possible misunderstanding. The work sheet can accomplish two things. In the first place, use the work sheet as a job sheet. The virtual assistant writes down how long each task takes to complete. Secondly, use the worksheet as a task sheet for the week. The work sheet will soon tell you whether the virtual assistant is using the time wisely, or not. You may be pleasantly surprised how effective your new virtual assistant is, and perhaps you should consider rewarding according to productivity.
Although you will probably begin by emailing each other, it can be very impersonal. Digsby/Trillian and Skype are two great tools to use to instant message. Skype is a great tool for interviewing the virtual assistant and to have weekly meetings, or as deemed necessary. Personal contact makes a vast difference. Instant Messages is also a great tool to use for discussing a task or handling a query. If you suspect your virtual assistant could be more productive, it is far easier to discuss that with instant messages, than sending emails back and forth.
For virtual assistants, document your conversations and backup your instant messenger logs. You can refer back to them if your memory isn’t clear and you can provide a copy to a client, if there is a discrepancy in information.
-3- Weekly Reports
Comparing the status reports sent at the end of the week with the task sheet at the beginning of the week, is a great tool to measure productivity and accomplishments. Any issues or problems will stand out, and can be addressed immediately. The weekly report will indicate whether you are giving your virtual assistant too much work, or too little work.
Changing the password is another method of quickly assessing whether your virtual assistant is actually working at the times indicated. The virtual assistant will have to contact you for the password, and that will indicated when they are working on the task. If you do not receive a request within a reasonable time, it would be wise to find out why. I don’t really recommend this, but it does force a conversation. Just keep in mind that VA’s are on the clock, so playing this game will start incur a cost as well as lost productivity time.
In conclusion, you do not want to spy on your virtual assistant, but you also do not want to pay, thinking the virtual assistant is working while he or she is on holiday at your expense. Your virtual assistant is not close by, so any problems he or she may have with the tasks at hand, is not picked up immediately. With these methods in place, any issues or problems can be identified and steps taken to rectify it.
I often have said that finding a good VA is lot like dating. It is. Really. Work on the relationship, build on the tasks. With any new relationship, clear directions are needed and be prepared to walk away if you don’t have the comfort level that you desire.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
At Out of the Office, we offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.
Image credit: Home office by Eduardo Otubo | CC BY 2.0