May 18, 2022

Ways to Improve Work Performance: Getting the Best from Your Virtual Assistant

When it comes to hiring a virtual assistant, one of the most common concerns is whether or not you'll actually increase work productivity.

Not only that, ideally, you want to be able to know how to create a long-term relationship with a reliable virtual assistant, allowing both of you to set up routines that keep you running smoothly.

Each business may look a little different, but we’ve found some effective tips on how to improve work performance, which are used by many of our clients, to get the best from working with a virtual assistant.

ways to improve work performance

The Daily 20 Minutes

Routines, as long as they are actually achieving something, can become a cornerstone for improving business productivity and employee performance.

One strategy, which a number of our Virtual Hub clients have formulated, is a kickoff meeting with their virtual assistant, usually for no longer than 20 minutes.

Why Is This Important? 

One of the best ways to improve work performance is to communicate effectively with your virtual team. 

It’s well-known that one of the greatest challenges that people tend to find with working in a virtual work environment is maintaining good communication — it’s one of the areas of improvement that needs to be addressed.

An Aon Consulting Report revealed that it’s possible for virtual teams to be more productive than their co-located counterparts, but one of the caveats to this is that the composition and working conditions of the team members must be just right. This includes fostering good communication. Productivity increases when people in the team are well-informed. An Aon Consulting Report revealed that it’s possible for virtual teams to be more productive than their co-located counterparts. But one of the caveats to this is that the composition and working conditions of the team members must be just right. This includes fostering effective communication.

Work performance improves and employee productivity increases when people in the team are well-informed. However, sometimes, our written communication skills just don’t cut it, or messages such as emails can get lost in translation or just lost altogether in crowded inboxes.

In her article, “7 Deadly Disadvantages to Working From Home”, Rachel Go refers to two of the most common reasons for not working remotely as being "lack of community" and "difficult or limited communication." For both of these, a good solution is to meet regularly, even if that is via virtual meetings.

A potential advantage of virtual meetings is that, if you wanted to, you could record them for reference later on.

Additionally, virtual meetings provide an opportunity for you to give constructive feedback to your VA in a way that is clear, concise, and respectful. Keep in mind that when you provide feedback, you're also taking part in your VA's self improvement and professional development.

From your VA’s perspective, a start-up meeting gives them the opportunity to ask questions. It allows them to communicate clearly without the need for time-consuming email exchanges or lengthy conversations.

Not only does this improve work performance, but it also fosters good relationships and leads to better time management.

ways to improve work performance

How To Make It Work

First of all, no one likes the old “meeting for the sake of a meeting.” Despite your aim to improve work performance, if you’re only meeting because you’re in the habit of doing so, and there’s no real benefit or outcome, then you’re not improving employee performance, and you're not achieving optimal productivity at all!

Remember - you don't need to schedule meetings daily. Maybe two or three times each week will suffice. Whatever the case, create a routine that suits your particular business.

Secondly, one of the best ways to ensure that your start-up meeting is productive is to plan ahead. It may be tempting to just “wing it,” but this is often the short route to not being as productive as you could be.

Have an agenda, even if it’s just a few quick bullet points. This will ensure that you don’t miss anything important too.

Documenting Procedures

This is one tip which we always recommend prior to even getting started with a VA: if you want to improve work performance and set up for success, then documenting your processes and procedures is a must.

Another thing to note here: we don’t suggest hiring a VA if it’s just for “project work.”

In Episode #32 of The Virtual Success Show Podcast, Barbara interviews Brian Casel, wherein they talk about how hiring just for "project work" can be detrimental to work performance, and how chopping and changing activities can also contribute to VA's frustration.

Having well-defined procedures in place is so important. It allows both you and your VA to know exactly what needs to be done, and how it needs to be done. This increases accuracy and efficiency, and in turn, improves work performance.

Why Is This Important?

One of the most effective ways to improve work performance is to document processes.

Talk to any business owner who has successfully built something to be scalable, and you’ll find they have this in common – they document procedures so that they are easily communicated and repeated.

This is also key to saving time and promoting productive practices. Because imagine, how much time gets wasted in businesses when people have to repeat themselves all the time?

Documenting procedures means that your VA (and any other virtual staff) can easily refer back to the documentation when needed, rather than having to ask questions.

It also helps your team’s overall performance and work productivity should you end up hiring more team members. You can simply share the procedures of multiple tasks, rather than having to use a lot of time training each new hire. (For more time saving tips, check out 4 Effective Time Management Strategies for a Better Life Balance by Tayler Gill.)

Another key point here is that documenting procedures, by the very nature of the activity, makes you examine those procedures more closely. You’re more likely to uncover any processes that are unnecessary or not as streamlined as they could be. This is also your chance to tweak them so you can improve work performance!

How To Make It Work

Using the right project management tools and keeping your documentation accessible are two key factors in successfully documenting procedures.

The “right tools" might include a method to transcribe your procedures and breaking them into steps, as well as any supplementary information, such as graphics or video.

For example, you could document procedures on a Google Doc so your team members can easily access it. You may also use Loom to share instructional step-by-step videos with your employees.

Pro Tip: Document the entire process of one task from start to finish. Don’t leave anything to chance or assume that something is too obvious. Walk through the steps in logical sequence so that anybody can follow along.

ways to improve work performance

Use Cloud Storage

Have you ever lost a document or had it irrevocably damaged after putting in great effort to complete it?

We’ve all been there, and it’s not a pleasant experience.

But what if we told you that there was a way to avoid this from happening in the future?

Enter: cloud storage.

Cloud storage is simply the practice of storing data on remote servers accessed through the internet, rather than on your computer’s hard drive.

ways to improve work performance

Why Is This Important?

It’s quite simple – losing important data is a huge work productivity killer. So do what you can to keep it safe.

Most VAs rely on some sort of cloud-based storage when they work. It's always a good idea to have it in black and white as a company policy.

Backing up your data to Dropbox or another cloud service also lets you be sure that the essential tasks (such as market research or procedure writing) that you ask your VA to complete can be kept safe.

Another advantage of cloud storage is that, in most cases, you can readily see any changes that have been made to documents, and revert back to older versions if necessary.

How To Make It Work

Keeping your documents organized is one of the most essential aspects about cloud storage; otherwise, you'll wind up with a cluttered system instead of a productive one.

Creating a system of clearly labeled folders and sub-folders will improve work efficiency, since it will allow anyone in your company to quickly discover where they need to go.

Another important feature of cloud storage is that it allows you to grant and revoke access as necessary. Features like this are key for keeping your business secure with minimum fuss over passwords and access.

Investing In The “Human” Relationship

Have you ever tried working with someone productively when they see you as some kind of hamster on the wheel of the organization? 

For instance, if you're just using Slack to bark out task lists, then you'd really have a hard time fostering belongingness and developing relationships.

But what if you had a good relationship with your VA? What if they saw you as more than just the boss, but as a human being with likes, dislikes, and emotions?

Building strong relationships with your employees can improve work efficiency in several ways.

Why Is This Important?

Human interactions are always about give and take. If you want someone to really be invested in your business success, then showing interest and concern for them is a must.

Remember - it’s very easy for a good VA to leave a job where they don’t feel valued. They can pick up employment elsewhere.

What happens next? Well, you’ll probably lost work productivity as you scramble to find a replacement!

Virtual assistants who feel valued are more likely to be engaged in their work. And engaged employees have been shown to be more productive than those who are not.

Furthermore, when you have a good relationship with your team, they're more likely to come to you with problems instead of trying to solve them themselves – which can often lead to errors or rework. 

And finally, employees who feel like they have a good relationship with their boss are more likely to stay with the company, which can save you time and money in the long run.

How To Make It Work

There are several ways to invest in the human relationship. Instinctively, you probably already have a few ideas in mind! Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Create an online meeting space for an informal chat among your team, such as a “watercooler” channel in Slack.
  • Make an effort to recognize and celebrate your team's successes, both big and small. This will show them that you truly appreciate their hard work.
  • Consider hosting an annual retreat if that is something doable in your business. Companies like Zapier do this with their virtual teams to help improve job performance, foster community, and build that vital human connection.
  • Try to show some vulnerability; let your team see that you're human, just like them. This will go a long way towards building trust.
  • Play to the strengths of the VA, but give them the opportunity to learn something new. Acknowledge their abilities, but at the same time, offer them a chance to learn new skills. This will let them know that you’re interested in their development, rather than just their ability to complete one task at hand.
ways to improve work performance

Supporting A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is important for your VA's performance at work. When they're able to balance their work with the other important aspects of their lives, they're more likely to be productive and engaged at work.

Why Is This Important?

When your VA is overworked, they are more likely to make mistakes, miss deadlines, and experience burnout. On the other hand, employees who have too much free time may become bored and unproductive.

But when they find the balance in between, they're more likely to be engaged in their work, able to focus on their tasks, and less likely to experience stress or fatigue. As a result, they're more likely to achieve their goals and perform at their best.

How To Make It Work

Finding balance can be difficult, especially in today's 24/7 world. But there are a few things you can do to support your VA's physical, emotional, and mental health. For example:

  • Encourage them to take short breaks during the day and step away from their desk. Maybe they can take a quick walk around the block or make themselves a cup of tea.
  • Don't schedule any work or phone calls outside of their normal work hours, unless it's absolutely necessary. If a call is necessary, give them as much notice as possible so they can plan accordingly.
  • Allow them to take time off when they need it. This could be for vacation, sick days, or personal days.
  • Offer flexible hours. Give your VA the opportunity to work when it's best for them, whether that means working odd hours or having a more flexible schedule.
  • Support remote working. If your VA is working remotely, make sure they have the tools and resources they need to work effectively from home, and give them the flexibility to take breaks when they need to.
  • Encourage healthy habits, as a healthy lifestyle can go a long way. Encourage your VA to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep.

Final Thoughts

The whole idea of hiring a virtual assistant is to improve productivity. But we’ve definitely come across situations where this didn’t work for the business at all.

A VA can’t just come along, wave a magic wand, and make everything better – you need to have the right conditions in your business to get the best from them and promote work productivity too.

To learn more about what a virtual can do for your business, make sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Virtual Assistants.

Consider these strategies for enhancing work performance, as well as what you need to put in place to obtain the greatest results and create a productive atmosphere. Your VA will thank you and so will your business!


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