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THE VIRTUAL HUB ULTIMATE GUIDE

HOW TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS USING VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS

All you need to know about working with Virtual Assistants
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SETTING EXPECTATIONS AND COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

SETTING EXPECTATIONS  AND HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR VIRTUAL ASSISTANT

Setting Expectations with Your Virtual Assistant

When you’re working with a new virtual assistant, especially if it’s your first team member, it can be a bit intimidating to know exactly what you can expect from your virtual team member. You may be concerned about what they’ll be able to add to your business and to what level.  


The good news is that you have the power to maximize your experience with your VA by effectively setting, communicating, and measuring realistic expectations. But doing this can be a bit tricky, especially when it’s new to you, and you don’t already know how. Not to worry! We’re about to walk you through it.

Define Expectations

The first thing you must keep in mind is that your VA can’t read your mind. We know you already knew that, but most of us have a tendency to assume that everyone thinks the same way as we do. So you want to be mindful of that, as you define your expectations. Don’t leave anything ‘in your head.’ It needs to be spelled out in black and white.

Clarify What’s Important to You

Asking yourself, “What’s important to me?” is a great place to start. Clarity around the types of work and overall behaviors that are important to you is critical. Your virtual assistant can’t meet your expectations if you can’t define them for yourself! So, think through what success looks like to you, both in terms of task outcomes and your relationship with your VA.  

 

Having your detailed task list, with step-by-step processes defined ahead of time will help you with some of the specific results you’re looking for, but you need to push further and consider other types of outcomes. For instance, what’s your communication style? Are you the kind of person who wants to be in constant contact with your virtual assistant throughout the day, or would that drive you bonkers? Instead, would you prefer to have your VA save any questions or issues for you to address at a specific time or times of day?

 

As another example, when your virtual assistant comes up against a roadblock, do you want them to come to you straight away, or would you rather they take some time to come up with an idea for a solution before reaching out to you?

 

What other values and behaviors are important to you that your virtual assistant will need to know to be set up for success? Take time to reflect.

Know What Stresses You

Another way to determine what’s important to you and define your expectations is to think about the things that most stress you out, so you’ll also be able to clarify what not to do. For some business owners, missing a deadline might push them over the edge, whereas others might get super stressed if tasks don’t get marked off in the task manager (even if they’re done!).

Now Write it Down!

Take everything you came up with about your expectations and write it down! Assume nothing and spell it all out in detail. Capture it in various places where it makes sense. You may want to have a master expectations document, as well as keep expectations in writing where the tasks occur (e.g., in your task manager or in process documents). If it’s not written down – and it place where your virtual assistant can reference it – it’s not well communicated. And speaking of communication…

Communicate Your Expectations

We’re going to dig deeper into communicating effectively with your virtual assistant in a section below. But for now, let’s just say – and it should be obvious – that these expectations you’re taking time to develop and write out need to be shared with your VA. This communication should begin during the onboarding process, but should also take place on an ongoing basis. Be sure to go through the process of defining your expectations as your relationship with your VA goes on and you begin handing off new tasks to him or her. Also, be sure to explain why you have these expectations. 

 

So, take the example of the business owner who doesn’t want to be pinged all day long with questions, concerns, and issues? Why? Is it simply disruptive to your own workflow, making it difficult for you to work in your genius zone? Or is it because you tend to be on the move, from place to place, and meeting to meeting, and it’s just not feasible to get back to your virtual assistant on an as-needed basis throughout the day? The better your VA understands ‘what makes you tick,’ the more successful they’re going to be in their work and the more effective your relationship is going to be.

So far, we’ve been discussing general expectations and communication. Below, we’re going to drill down into specific measures for managing and evaluating performance with your virtual assistant.

Performance Manage Your Virtual Assistant

Unless you have been an entrepreneur from the jump, you’ve experienced – and possibly even given – a performance review, where an employee and their boss sit down and consider progress made toward the objectives specified for their job success. These reviews allow companies to assess the performance of individuals, departments, and the business as a whole and to make adjustments to their plans to meet business goals. For this process to be effective, measurable criteria for success must be established and targets set for those measures.

Performance management is critical to business success, and it’s equally if not more important to apply the process to virtual teams as a company would with in-house employees. In order to know with confidence that your virtual assistant’s performance is moving your business forward, you ways to measure their performance and in a way that’s aligned with your overall business goals.

Establish Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are what companies use to measure how people, teams, and the overall organization are progressing toward their goals. KPIs are objective criteria and typically take the form of a “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) goal. You can think of KPIs as the glue that connects everyday tasks to your business success. As an added bonus, collecting, reporting, and analyzing KPI data not only helps you create the strategy and tactics for achieving business goals, but it also increases communication and engagement within your company by connecting everyone to your business vision and larger purpose. 

 

You may recall how we emphasized bringing your virtual assistant into your business vision when you are onboarding them to your team. Reminding them and involving them in your business vision should also be an ongoing discussion. In fact, as you establish KPIs and milestones for your virtual assistant, share the thinking behind the measures you’ve developed and allow your VA to add their input to boost their buy-in. Plus, they may have a great idea of their own about how to measure their performance and ensure their efforts are aligned with your overall goals.


Keep in mind that the ideal number of KPIs is somewhere around five to seven, so we’re talking about the core metrics you want to look at to determine progress, not every tiny detail. Once you and your virtual assistant have settled on the KPIs, be sure to put them in writing along with the plan for tracking and reporting hem, as well as how often you’ll review them together. Make sure the two of you review progress at intervals in between formal performance reviews so that you can make adjustments if measures are lagging behind your targets or milestones. For example, if you intend to have just one formal, annual performance review, review the KPIs together quarterly. Otherwise, you’ll miss opportunities to improve performance along the way and will be at higher risk for missing your annual targets.

Be sure to weave your reporting requirements for your virtual assistant into your project management tool and into your communication structure (best communication practices are described below). Make it crystal clear so that you will have access to the numbers whenever you need to look at them. 

 

As a final note on expectations, make sure that both you and your virtual assistant know how you’ll assess whether or not expectations are being met. What does success look like? What are the results you’re after? What does failure look like?

 

Again, let’s go back to an example from above. If you’re the type of business owner who wants all of the tasks not only completed but ticked off the list in the project manager at the end of the day, that’s a success criterion. And it’s a great one because it’s black and white – the list is either done or not done. For other areas, success might not be so yes or now, so be sure to back up your expectations with instructions, criteria, and even examples of what does and doesn’t meet expectations. 

 

Finally, you may want to implement some sort of success dashboard where the day’s or week’s results are reported. This both keeps everyone on the same page and allows you to look at progress over time.

If you’d like to dig further into assessing your VA’s performance, tune into “The Quick and Effective Way To Asses The Success Or Failure Of My Virtual Assistant”  on The Virtual Success Podcast.

Communicating with Your Virtual

Assistant

Effective communication style and structure can make the difference between success and failure when working with virtual assistants and other remote team members. You must create an open and safe space for your team to talk to you about their work and their experiences and create clarity around both the types of information you want from you VA and how frequently different types of information need to be communicated to you.

Planning out your communication channels and structure ahead of time helps to ensure that you and your VA both get the information and feedback you need from one another and that communication occurs in a timely and routine manner. Below we review the elements of a sound communication plan to help you develop yours for success.

Establish a Meeting Rhythm

Your team meeting rhythm is the system you create for communicating with your virtual assistant on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. The structure of the meetings and communications that take place at these different time frames is up to you. That is, you make it work for you and your business needs. But we have some recommendations for the basics, plus some additional ideas you can tweak for your needs.

Require Daily Huddle or Check-In?

When your relationship with your virtual assistant is new, we’d highly recommend having a daily, 10-minute video meeting using Skype or Zoom. Early on, you and your VA are going to have a lot of questions for one another. They’ll likely have task- and process-related questions to address with you, and you’ll want to know how they’re progressing. Plus, meeting “face-to-face” every day will help nurture your new relationship, help you get to know one another well, and make you feel like a cohesive team.

 

Some of our clients do a daily “stand-up” meeting with their virtual assistant or their larger team. Many brick and mortar organizations have stand-up meetings, and the idea behind it is that standing helps ensure the meeting is quick, as you can’t get quite as comfortable or settled in while you’re standing as you may while sitting around a conference table. 

 

Whether you literally stand up or not, we recommend this daily “huddle” to check in with one another. And because neither of you wants to take a ton of time to get through this meeting, make sure you have a tight meeting agenda or checklist you, so you can get through what you need to quickly. For example, Taki Moore of Coach Marketing Machine has his team do a daily huddle where each person addresses three simple questions:

 

  1.  What did you get done yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. And where are you stuck?


Those questions allow the team to both keep each other up to date and to keep each person moving forward on their projects and tasks.

Meeting “face-to-face” every day will help nurture your new relationship, help you get to know one another well, and make you feel like a cohesive team.

At some point in your relationship with your team, everyone may be communicating their updates and needs so well that you could move away from having a Zoom meeting and, instead, post the daily update in your preferred communication/chat channel, such as Slack. For instance, we know of one team who posts a daily update in response to these prompts: 


  1.  A win from yesterday.
  2. Three things you’re going to rock out today.
  3. What help do you need and from whom?

 

Also, if you move from a meeting to another form of daily communication, set a structure around that. For example, the rule might be, “Post my responses to the daily prompts by 9:15 am every weekday.” And it is smart to have your daily check-ins at the start of each day, as this will help to prevent both of you from having to respond to comments in your project management system or chat channel throughout the day.  


How you set your agenda or the questions you address is up to you, but please don’t skip having a daily means for checking in with one another. If you fall out of the habit of daily check-ins, missed deadlines, errors, and other problems will begin to occur.

Host Weekly Meetings

Now, given that you’re going to be in direct contact daily, a weekly meeting with your virtual assistant might sound redundant. However, we recommend having a formal, weekly meeting together, even if you feel that there’s no need. And “formal” means that it’s non-negotiable, it’s at a set day and time on the calendar each week, and it, too, has a set agenda. 

 

You’ll be dealing with task-related items daily, so the weekly meeting is a bit broader and more tactical in nature. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss higher-level topics, which keep your vision and the big picture of your business top-of-mind for your VA or team. Further, you may want to incorporate a progress report your VA creates for you each week, and during this meeting, you discuss progress and metrics.

 

Again pulling from Taki Moore’s advice, his team addresses three big things that are on each person’s plate right now. They examine their numbers and consider how individuals and the business are tracking. Finally – and this is key – they come up with action plans that identify who does what by when, as well as any people or resources they need to pull in to execute the plan.

 

In addition, it sets the tone for the week and allows you both the chance to address roadblocks, provide feedback, gain approval for work, discuss ideas, and reset anything that’s out of alignment. It’s a good business practice and leadership strategy to get you and your team into a routine of presenting information to each other and sticking to processes and deadlines. For example, if you have little or no structure to your week and how you work, it will rub off on others – and vice versa. As the leader of your business, you set the mood, the tone, and the quality level that’s expected. 

 

So, set a weekly meeting for 30-60 minutes and create an agenda that you stick to week after week to maintain the communication structure. To get you started, we have a sample weekly meeting agenda that you can grab and modify to suit your business needs. 

 

Occasionally, something will come up during a weekly meeting that’s too big to address in 30-60 minutes, such a big decision that needs to be made. Those issues can be parked until you have your next monthly meeting.

Hold Monthly and Quarterly Meetings

Daily and weekly meetings are going to take care of tasks and tactics. Having monthly and/or quarterly meetings provides you with time to get more strategic with your team. Depending on the size of your team and the nature of your business, these meetings might take anywhere from 90 minutes to half a day. 

 

You may want to do this with your daily or weekly meetings as well, but monthly meetings often kick off by everyone reporting their wins for the month. This is a great opportunity for team building and generating awareness around the great things people are doing. So start off on the right foot by celebrating what’s working first. 

 

Next, move on to what’s not working and work through roadblocks and developing solutions together.  Finally, refer back to your list of parked topics that may have come up in a weekly meeting or some other means. Pick one or two of them – don’t bite off more than you can chew – and spend an hour or so breaking them down and crafting a plan for the month that addresses that topic.

Create Structure for Communicating Outside of Meeting Times

Having a solid, daily, weekly, and monthly meeting rhythm is going to help you to reduce the number of questions or problems you have to address throughout the day. But there will definitely be instances where you and your virtual assistant need to communicate with each other during some part of the day. For example, you might have had a new, urgent task that popped up that you need him or her to handle today. On the other hand, your VA might run up against an unexpected roadblock and need assistance that can’t wait until the next day’s check-in.

Select Your Quick Communication Tool

Fortunately, technology can help us improve our communication flows. Chat tools such as Skype are great tools for shooting each other quick questions and updates throughout the day. Slack is another amazing tool for this, as it allows you to easily search for old messages and you can set up topic channels for different purposes (e.g., marketing, events, reporting). For situations where it’s easier to talk things out than to write them, many teams like to use the walkie talkie phone and desktop app Voxer

 

Also, as we discussed in project management, your tool (e.g., Asana) allows you to tag people and comment within a given task or project, which is great for keeping everything in one place. However, you probably want to limit your project management tool to project details, instructions, and subtasks/checklist and not clutter it up with chatting back and forth. 

 

If you want to stay as organized as possible – as well as maintain your sanity – settle on one tool for quick communications that are not task instructions, especially if you have multiple team members. Allowing for the use of more than one communication tool will result in having pieces of communications in different places, and it will be harder to keep track of everything.

Develop a Quick Communications Structure

Even though your quick communications tool is for one-off issues or questions that pop up, it’s still important for you to create a structure around that, as well. If you’re someone who’s comfortable responding to chats when you’re pinged on the app, you can let your virtual assistant know that you’ll be available to reply throughout the day. On the other hand, if that’s not your preference or your schedule doesn’t permit that type of responsiveness, pick a couple of times a day when you’ll check in on messages and let your VA know when those times are. 

 

Whether you respond to notifications as they come in or you batch your replies, you may also want to create some clarity around the types of issues that are urgent and the items that can wait. In addition, you may want to set up an “S.O.S.” protocol for when something needs to be addressed urgently. That could be starting an urgent message with a codeword or phrase (“Red Alert!”) that will pop up on a notification. Or it could be using a secondary communications channel (e.g., text message) that’s only used for pressing matters.

Check out our three-part podcast on 
communication


The Virtual Success Show hosts Matt Malouf and Barbara Turley take listeners through three key items of communication: recognizing your communication style, giving and receiving effective and constructive feedback, and handling challenging conversations.


PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE

Provide Constructive Feedback

As discussed in the onboarding section, virtual assistants are not mind readers. And no matter how solid you think your task instructions are laid out, mistakes will be made or something won’t quite live up to your standards. Keep in mind that it’s totally normal, but also recognize that you will have to provide the feedback needed to get your VA on track. And even though, in most cases, providing feedback isn’t a negative thing, it can feel negative and a bit intimidating if you don’t know how to do it properly. 

 

Above all, you want your VA to be successful because his or her success helps to determine your success. So providing timely and ongoing feedback is going to be key to helping your VA help you.

Don’t Avoid Feedback

Often business owners and other leaders will drag their feet about giving feedback or avoid it altogether. This reluctance to share feedback is rooted in fears, such as being disliked or getting rejected. Alternatively, maybe we had a bad experience on the receiving end of feedback from someone who wasn’t good at it, and we’re afraid of making someone else feel like that. But when you know how to offer feedback effectively, you can overcome these fears.

 

Also, when things go wrong or completed work isn’t up to your standards and you don’t provide feedback, you’re creating a lose-lose situation. Your virtual assistant loses because they don’t know what they’re doing incorrectly, so they can’t fix it, which limits their potential to become the highly valued team member you’re hoping they’ll be. On the flip side, you lose because you’re frustrated, and you’re either forced to settle for work that doesn’t meet your liking or you’re spending time reworking things yourself. 

 

But remember: You added a VA to your team to be a part of your team and to help you grow your business. If you don’t invest the time to provide feedback, you’re squandering the potential in your investment in your virtual assistant. However, when you deal with problems early and head-on, your VA is not only going to improve but also feel like a more valuable member of the team as someone whose efforts and skills you respect.

Be Clear and Direct with Feedback

Giving your virtual assistant vague feedback such as, “This isn’t what I was hoping for,” or, “That’s not quite right,” and asking them to re-do or fix it isn’t giving feedback at all. If you can’t articulate what changes need to be made, how could your VA possibly do a better job the second time around? 


It’s important to hold on to the mindset that your VA is a team member and an investment in your business and be willing to take the time to nurture that investment. That is, you’re working together to achieve the same goal. So before you sit down to provide feedback, you may want to ask yourself some questions, such as: 


  • Where do I think this broke down?
  • Did I create and hand over the task in an effective manner in the first place?
  • What exactly would I like to be done differently? And how can I communicate that more clearly?

 

Get very clear on what it is that you don’t like and what you’re looking for instead, and then have a collaborative conversation around the issues. But keep in mind that effective feedback goes both ways. During the conversation, your virtual assistant may have feedback for you about how to explain tasks or provide instructions the next time – that is, if you’re lucky! Allowing for a back and forth flow of information and ideas can only benefit you both.  


Here’s an example of how you might initiate the conversation in a non-threatening and collaborative way.


“The results on [task] aren’t quite working for me – it’s not exactly what I was looking for. So, I want to talk through it with you to see how we can work together on this. I want to find the holes in the process and figure out whether we just didn’t set the task up correctly or we need to communicate back and forth better. It’s important to me that I make sure you understand, so you can feel confident in your work.”


Also, using phrases like, “from my perspective,” “this is what I would have done in this case,” or “here’s what I was thinking,” invite collaboration rather than discomfort. In fact, having these conversations doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all, and you may even find that you can your virtual assistant actually enjoy rolling up your sleeves and coming up with solutions together!

 

Furthermore, keep in mind that feedback isn’t a one-time conversation. Once you’ve provided the initial feedback, have a plan for the next couple of weeks to keep the conversation going and let your VA know about it. Assume them that you don’t want to micromanage them, but that you want to stay close to the issue and allow them to give you feedback about how it’s going along the way. Let them know that you want them to be empowered to do their job well and feel really confident about it.

 

Finally, because sharing feedback is collaborative and a conversation, be sure to share it on a call with your virtual assistant, preferably a video call. Video allows you both to pick up on expressions and body language, making it easier to have a true dialogue. But you must strictly avoid providing feedback less formally, such as via your chat program. Avoiding a face-to-face interaction and using a text method for feedback is a surefire way to have more, not less, misunderstanding. Plus, firing off a printed message for something this important is pretty dismissive, like either the work or the VA isn’t that important to you.

Be Prepared for Difficult Conversations

At some point, you are likely to need to have a difficult conversation with your virtual assistant or another team member or contractor. And honestly, we know these are never easy for either party, so we want to offer you our best practices for having these discussions to make them as comfortable and effective as possible for you and your team.

Be Candid and Timely

Often, we all drag our feet about having a difficult conversation, whether it’s work-related or in another context. Another pitfall many people fall into is having the conversation but sugarcoating or downplaying the issues instead of being completely candid. As human beings with emotions, difficult conversations typically make both parties uncomfortable. In short: they’re hard. However, putting them off or failing to fully address the concerns only makes things more uncomfortable in the long-run, as the concerns remain unchecked and grow to take on a life of their own.

 

When a problem or concern needs to be addressed, plan to have the conversation as soon as possible. It’s easier and more effective to give and receive feedback while the issue or event is fresh in everyone’s minds. Plus, putting it off only makes your fears and doubts about initiating the conversation grow, making it harder and harder for you to “face the music” with each passing day. Our additional tips below will help you plan for an effective and candid meeting.

Set up a Video Meeting with an Agenda

First of all, you want to host a “formal” meeting rather than a simple “chat.” So make it official and set a meeting and provide an agenda. This elevates the importance of the discussion and helps both parties put their best foot forward. The meeting topic and agenda allow your virtual assistant to come prepared for your discussion and prevents them from being caught off-guard. Don’t surprise people, as that never goes well. They’ll feel ambushed and be far more likely to react defensively, hindering your ability to have a constructive and effective conversation.

 

Also, avoid having this conversation over the phone, and absolutely avoid sharing your concerns via and voice or text messaging apps. Host the meeting via Skype or Zoom so that you can meet “face-to-face,” which allows for a more personal experience and for each of you to see and respond to body language. It might feel easier to do it over the phone because you avoid looking your VA in the eye or to use messaging, which you can shoot off to your VA without having to address their responses right away. However, this will not result in effective resolution to the concerns at hand, and it’s terribly dismissive.

Stick to the Facts

As humans, it’s virtually impossible to completely take the emotion out of the interaction, but sticking to the facts helps to minimize any bad feelings that are going to come up. In the three-part series on The Virtual Success Podcast, co-host Barbara Turley recommends opening the meeting with a statement that invites the other party to the discussion and gets right to the point, such as, “Thank you for coming to the meeting today. The main reason for today’s meeting is for us to discuss a few key issues that have been occurring and for us to get a clear set of steps on how we’re going to fix it moving forward. Is that okay with you?”

 

Then come prepared with the facts related to your concerns so that you can your virtual assistant can resolve the challenges objectively and effectively. At the same time, ensure that you are sufficiently candid to allow for an effective and complete action plan that eliminates the problem in the future. It’s not always easy to do, and it may feel more comfortable to be “nice,”  but candor is far more effective, plus it helps the other party in the discussion know that you care. 

 

If that seems counterintuitive, consider Matt Malouf’s take on “nice,” from the podcast episode referenced above. He relies on the acronym for nice: “nothing inside me cares enough.” When you care enough about your work and about your people, you’re willing to take the tough steps to make things right and to help others get better. Being overly nice to people may seem like the kinder thing to do, but people actually appreciate constructive feedback and the opportunity to improve. When you’re not willing to have the tough conversation, it’s akin to giving up on the other person. And eventually, they’ll read between the lines and recognize your lack of concern about them.

Leverage Mistakes

Mistakes are going to happen. It’s simply inevitable that mistakes will occur, especially during the first few months with your virtual assistant and when you introduce your VA to new tasks and projects down the road. They’re natural, but take the perspective that mistakes are gifts. They’re gifts to you because they show you where your process is inefficient and ineffective and where it may need some extra work. Mistakes point you to where you have the potential to improve.  


In addition to mistakes, you and your VA will experience some confusion along the way. A process may be clunky, something will take too long, you’ll find yourself answering endless questions, and so on. These are all symptoms that there’s something unclear in the process itself or in the process instructions. When mistakes are made or your VA is struggling with something, don’t assume it’s the VA’s inability to do things properly. Take a look at your processes and verify you have efficient processes that can be followed by anyone. 


We want to impress upon you the utility of process analysis when things don’t turn out or go as smoothly as expected because, at some point, your business is going to grow even more, as a result of hiring your VA. And soon, you may want to add other team members, and you want to know that you don’t have to train someone up again. Taking the time to optimize your processes now means you won’t need to go through this again/ You want to get it right the first time and ensure you have processes that are really good.

Create Structure

We talked about having structure around communication and reporting, but you will also want to create structure for when and how your virtual assistant works for you. Do they work during a specific time frame each day when you know they are online? This may be a requirement for your virtual team if you are giving them tasks that must be performed during your operating hours, such as responding to customers on the phone or email. 

 

On the other hand, you might have your VA simply work a certain number of hours for you each day (or each week) and track their time using an app such as Harvest or Toggl? Typically, we would recommend having your virtual assistant have set, daily hours for efficiency. Why? Consider the maxim: “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” Because, as humans, we tend to be less productive when we have too much time and flexibility to accomplish our tasks.

 

You can, however, create structure with flexibility. As long as you communicate and agree on a structure with your virtual assistant – for example, receiving daily progress updates – you can allow for some flexibility in how your VA completes the work.

Avoid Burnout

The appeal and benefits of virtual work are well documented, but researchers are finding that virtual workers are prime candidates to suffer from burnout. Virtual assistant exhaustion is a real concern from which your business will suffer if your VA is suffering. It’s harder to notice the signs of burnout when you’re not seeing someone in person each day, so consider a few steps to balance the workload.

Balancing the Workload

What comes to mind when you think of “workload”? Our first thought tends toward the actual list of tasks a person has to complete. But it’s not that simple.  

 

You may have noticed that the concept of “mental workload” has been trending lately, especially as it applies to both work and home life. The fact is, we’re not just impacted only by the actual physical workload, it’s the mental – and even emotional – workload, too. A large portion of mental exhaustion can be attributed to this mental labor.

 

Consider what this might look like for your virtual assistant. Think about every email, every quick ping on Slack, or every “can you quickly look this over” or “what do you think?” request you might send. Add to that the timing around when those are received. Are they restricted to work hours, or is the virtual assistant getting messages after hours and on days off?

 

And even when those messages are happening during work hours, what’s the VA’s expected response time? Interruptions such as message notifications divide our attention, directing it away from our current task. We’re so used to being bombarded by notifications these days, so this might not seem like a big deal. However, there’s a high cost to task-switching in terms of the mind-fatigue that leads to burnout, as well as in terms of productivity. In fact, it’s believed that it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on task following an interruption

 

Here are a few tips about minimizing the potential for burnout: 

 

  • Have an established routine and avoid the chaos of random interruptions.
  • Establish a hard stop for work.
  • Be clear about priorities and emphasize quality over quantity. (If everything is “high priority,” then                      nothing is!)
  • Have (and help to keep) clear boundaries – there’s a big difference allowing flexibility and expecting your      team to be at your beck and call.
  • Allow for breaks – we call need and benefit from them!

 

You can read more about these guidelines and grab a guide for noticing the symptoms of burnout in our blog article, “Balancing Workload and Preventing Virtual Assistant Exhaustion.”

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