Managing Your Virtual Staff Productivity

virtual-staff-productivity

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Companies are busier than ever today. As more businesses enter the market and competition intensifies, the need for your virtual staff productivity also increases. While most companies are trying to do something to improve employee productivity in the physical office space, many forget to take virtual assistants into consideration.

Your virtual assistants are struggling to be productive

As more companies start to hire virtual assistants, it becomes important for you to create an atmosphere where your virtual staff productivity is high. Especially since low virtual staff productivity can affect your company negatively.

Research in Udemy’s “Coping with Workplace Distractions: A Learning Culture Can Help People Work Smarter” Report shows that 70% of the workforce often gets distracted on the job. For 80% of these workers, a noisy background and other people’s conversations were the top distractors.

Consider a virtual assistant’s way of working. Many of them work out of their homes – often doubling their dining room, living room, or bedroom as their office space. A number of virtual assistants live with family – which includes small children. Real-life, as we all know, can be quite noisy. It is filled with children crying, dogs barking, vehicles honking outside our windows and TVs blaring. Just imagine how many distractions plague your virtual assistants while they work. In fact, according to the “You Waste a Lot of Time at Work” Report by Atlassian, employees are interrupted during work, on average, 56 times each day! That’s a LOT of distraction. And here’s something worse. Once the employee is distracted, it can take up to 2 hours for them to get back in the zone, to start working productively. The toll this takes on virtual staff productivity becomes exceptionally high.

So, yes, we’ve all heard that virtual assistants are 13% more productive than in-office employees. But it all depends on how best you are supporting virtual staff productivity at the workplace. And here’s something to remember. Distractions are just one type of problem that affects virtual assistants. There are many more.

In this article, we discuss more what virtual staff productivity actually is. We also focus on how you can improve the productivity of your virtual assistants. Finally, we consider how investing in virtual staff productivity can help your company succeed.

How can virtual assistants be productive?

Making virtual assistants productive is easy when you know what challenges they face. By helping your virtual assistants create a comfortable, distraction-free and supportive remote work environment, you can automatically improve virtual staff productivity.

Challenge: Distraction by family members

Solution: Family distractions can take a huge toll on virtual staff productivity, as we’ve seen above. One way you can tackle this is to create a work schedule that capitalizes on the times when noisy family members won’t be a distraction. For example, give your virtual assistants the option to stagger their work timing. Ask them to log in early in the morning or late in the evening to finish key tasks, when the rest of the family is still asleep. They can take a few hours off during the day to finish their house chores. That way, they’ll be available for you when you need them to work and they’ll be able to avoid family distractions.

Additionally, encourage your virtual assistants to speak to their partners/spouses/older kids and request their support to create a distraction-free environment.

Challenge: Time difference & scheduling conflicts

Solution: Often, virtual assistants live in a completely different geography, compared to the company. So, the time difference can have an effect on virtual staff productivity. It’s really important to study what overlapping time periods are available and maximize your usage of that time period. For example, team meetings that require face-to-face contact can be held during these periods.

Having real-time chat tools can help you and your virtual assistants connect with each other quickly. Finally, introduce your upcoming projects, tasks, and responsibilities in advance to your virtual assistants. This will give them the autonomy to schedule their workday in a way that doesn’t affect their productivity.

Challenge: Poor communication pathways

Solution: A lot can get lost or misunderstood when you’re working with virtual assistants. The key to ensuring virtual staff productivity is to make sure your communication is spot-on. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Send minutes of the meeting after every face-to-face meeting. This will help virtual assistants keep track of their to-do list for the day/week/month.
  • Use simple words and not jargon. Not every virtual assistant may be well-versed in the technical concepts of your job.
  • Dedicate specific tools for specific types of communication. For example, instant messengers for quick on-job support, email only for important correspondences & documentation, video conferencing apps for workplace events & meetings, etc.
  • Save previous work as samples to share with new virtual assistants so they know what is expected of them on the job.

Challenge: Lack of employee engagement

Solution: One reason for low virtual staff productivity is a lack of employee engagement. Many companies fail to actively engage their virtual assistants and often don’t even create an office culture for them. This can make virtual assistants feel detached from your company. Such a feeling of detachment often reduces virtual staff productivity because then the assistant isn’t really invested in the company’s success.

So, host virtual events where your remote assistants can participate. Maybe sponsor tickets for a virtual performance or museum tour. Send them virtual gifts such as cash vouchers, eBooks, one-month subscriptions to Netflix, etc. Host virtual employees’ day and invite your virtual assistants to participate by sharing their talents with colleagues. The more you bridge this gap between virtual assistants and in-office employees, the higher your virtual staff productivity will be.

Challenge: Absence of training

Solution: As with engagement, training is another area that many companies fail to pay attention to when it comes to virtual assistants. So, when you don’t upskill your team, of course, your virtual staff productivity is bound to lower.

As a rule, have regular training sessions and upskilling sessions to keep your virtual assistants on par with market requirements. If you’re unable to organize the training, encourage your virtual assistants to take up training independently and offer to sponsor the training (either fully or partly). At the end of the day, training and upskilling virtual assistants will help your company benefit from their upgraded skillsets.

Challenge: Poor virtual workplace organization

Solution: For virtual staff productivity to be high, your virtual assistants need to know the exact organizational hierarchy they need to adhere to. Knowing who they can contact in different circumstances, if they require help, can reduce wastage of time and confusion.

One way you can help here is to create a presentation deck, updated with information about which employee is responsible for what task. Then you can share this deck with every new virtual assistant and ensure they are prepared to take on the job.

Challenge: Non-availability of the correct technology

Solution: Not every virtual assistant will have access to the tools and technology that you want them to use. To ensure virtual staff productivity remains unaffected, you can invest in the technology and share your resources with your virtual assistants. Many software providers today offer subscription-based plans for SMEs and enterprises. You can choose how much coverage/support you need and purchase the required virtual assistant tools.

What tools do virtual assistants use?

Tools are essential for high virtual staff productivity. Different companies use different tools. Here we’ll discuss a few key tools that you can invest in to ensure your virtual assistants are successful on the job. We’ve provided various options so you can choose what’s best for you:

Tools for time tracking

  • Time Doctor
  • Desk Time
  • Time Camp
  • Toggl
  • RescueTime

Tools for document sharing

  • Google Workspace (previously called G-Suite)
  • Dropbox for business
  • Confluence
  • Zoho Docs
  • pCloud

Tools for organizing online meetings

  • Google Meet
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Skype
  • Calendly
  • Sildo
  • HubSpot Meetings

Tools for project management

  • Asana
  • Trello
  • Basecamp
  • Roadmunk
  • Jira
  • Planio
  • Tools for document signing
  • PandaDoc
  • DocuSign
  • EverSign
  • AdobeSign
  • Scrive
  • Docsketch

Tools for social media management

  • DrumUp
  • Buffer
  • MeetEdgar
  • Hootsuite
  • Agora Pulse
  • Sendible

Tools for accounting

  • Kashoo
  • QuickBooks
  • Xero
  • Sage Accounting
  • Expensify
  • FreshBooks

Tools for voice assistance

  • Siri
  • Cortana
  • Alexa
  • Google Assistant
  • Lyra
  • Edison Assistant

How do virtual teams enhance productivity?

If you are able to create a virtual work environment that fosters virtual staff productivity, your virtual assistants will be able to help you in the following ways:

With the right communication tools and explicit instructions about who to contact for help, your virtual assistants will be able to get the relevant information they need at the right time. This will reduce:

  • On-the-job mistakes.
  • Missing of deadlines.
  • Necessity to re-work tasks.
  • Wastage of company resources.

With the perfect productivity tools and technology to work, your virtual assistants will be able to:

  • Limit at-home distractions.
  • Maximize their interactions with you during live meetings.
  • Collaborate with colleagues on projects.
  • Meet deadlines and reach milestones on time.
  • Share documents and resources with people across the world, with ease.
  • Ask for resources or support and reduce any challenges or workflow blockages that prevent work completion.
  • Engage customers & suppliers on social media in a timely manner.
  • Maintain clear and detailed books of accounts that can help you gauge business success easily. Plus, it helps make compliance filing also easier.
  • Effortlessly organize company events and share invites.
  • Be responsive to your queries and instructions, ensuring the company functions smoothly.

Research indicates that when your virtual staff productivity is high, your virtual assistants can save $97,000 per year! So, invest in your virtual staff productivity today and experience these myriad benefits.

How do you ensure Data Security?

Now that we’ve seen the types of data security in business you need, let’s look at what types of security controls you should administer to protect your company and your customers:

Identity authentication & access management

People, software, or devices that are unauthorized to access your systems & databases, can cause a lot of harm. When you’re implementing data security in business, you should put in place security that can facilitate access control through identity authentication. This way, only those who are identified by your security measures as being authorized to access something, will be allowed to access it.

Typically, identity authentication & access control is done according to three characteristics:

  • Role-based access – Access given to role/team-based resources only.
  • Mandatory access – Access given to all company resources authorized system administrators who control all other types of access.
  • Discretionary access – Access given to various resources according to the discretion of the administrator/business head.
  • Data backup & recovery

Some types of viruses and malware cause your entire network to crash and the data to get erased. If you don’t have a data backup and recovery solution, you’ll be at risk of permanently losing your important data. Such a scenario can be very debilitating to your company.

Data encryption

Encryption is the process of coding the true message in data, as something entirely different. A special alphanumeric key is used to encrypt the data. Depending on the sophistication of the encryption, the data can be decrypted using the same key or a different key.

Tokenization

Tokens are security devices that employees must possess if they want to access company resources. In tokenization, the restricted resources are tokenized to give access only when the user possesses the tokens.

Data masking

Data masking is a good technique for data security in the business. Here, the data is masked by proxy numbers and letters. The authorization for unmasking the data is given only to those who have been granted access to the data.

Permanent data deletion

This is an option for data security in business when you have years of unwanted data clogging your system. Sometimes companies forget the data of old customers or closed accounts and do not delete the data. This data is still lying, collecting dust, and is easy to hack into by criminals. To prevent this data from getting compromised, you should schedule a permanent data deletion of unused accounts/folders every few years. This could include everything from wiping your computer’s memory to destroying hard disks to clearing your cache & cookies and more.

How do you establish data security?

In addition to the above steps, here are a few more ways you can establish data security in the business. You can share these tips with your employees too, to ensure they maintain business security practices:

  • Use strong passwords that combine alphabets, numbers, and special characters. Change your password every two weeks and don’t keep the same password across different accounts/devices. Ideally, it works better if you use passphrases, rather than passwords. Don’t share these passwords with colleagues.
  • Don’t click on emails from people you don’t know. Such emails could contain malware, ransomware, or viruses, which could affect your systems. Even if you do know the sender of the mail, don’t be in a hurry to open any attachments. Ensure your internet security is activated to block anything malicious from getting downloaded into your system.
  • Keep updating your devices regularly. Software updates contain state-of-the-art security patches, which can help strengthen your existing in-built security settings. Automating software updates ensures you don’t forget to update your systems.
  • Start investing in cloud computing. When you move your business to the cloud, you store your data in an off-site server, controlled by a third party. Cloud storage offers immense data security in business and negates the need for you to invest in physical servers of your own.
  • Don’t leave any computers or tablets switched on and connected to the internet or a charging point at all times. Switch your devices off after use. Keeping them on makes you vulnerable to internet-based or end-point-based attackers.
  • Configure the data sharing, access, and privacy settings of all applications and software you use. Otherwise, these apps/software will be collecting data silently as you work, without you knowing it.
  • Enable remote data wiping on your devices. That way, if your office devices get stolen, you can access them remotely and delete confidential company data.
  • Disable automatic downloads on all your devices. This will ensure no virus or malware gets automatically downloaded onto your system.
  • Avoid faxing private information if you can. You don’t know who’s at the receiving end of the fax.
  • Don’t make purchases using public wi-fi. Some types of cyberattacks allow the attacker to see exactly what’s displayed on your screen and they may note down your card details.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when logging into your devices. That way, your device remains locked even if it gets stolen or hacked.
  • Change your passwords and inform third-party service providers of any system/data breaches the moment they occur. The faster you take action, the sooner you’ll be able to regain data security in the business.