Novel Coworking’s Response to COVID-19
A Guide to Working Remotely

A Guide to Working Remotely

In 2020, many companies are asking their employees to work remotely. Whether you are at home or practicing social distancing in a private office, we want to share a few useful resources that may keep you positive and focused during a transition to remote work.

 

Tips on working remotely

 

Send updates and hold check-ins daily

The biggest challenge in remote work is maintaining clear and consistent communication. Without the subtleties of tone, body language, or facial expression, workers may feel isolated or detached from the rest of their team. Schedule daily check-ins with your team to ensure all are on the same page.

 

Update your tools and technology

Relying solely on email will not be enough. Remote workers will need to rely on technology to stay up to date on projects and team information. For instant messaging, try out Slack. For video conferencing, try Zoom. You will also want to rely more heavily on a project management app— Asana, Mavenlink, and Notion are all great choices.

 

Develop routines for concentration

With the flexibility afforded by remote work, it can be easy to get sidetracked by your pets or a comfy bed. Start creating certain habits that will bring out your productivity. You may want to dress professionally to put yourself in the mindset of work, even if you don’t plan on meeting coworkers or clients virtually. Move to a more private part of your home, away from common distractions. Cut off phone notifications, social media, even email if you plan on working for an extended period. You may consider downloading a focus app, like StayFocusd or Freedom which limits your time spent on distracting sites.

 

Block out your calendar

Without the usual 9-5 schedule, it can be difficult to separate your work from chores at home. Instead of constantly going back and forth, block out 30-minute to hour-long events on your calendar for whatever it is you plan on focusing. First, this method will hold you accountable for working on your high-priority tasks. Second, it frees you up from agreeing to conflicting appointments and meetings.

 

Cultivate an environment of wellness

Above all, learn to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. At a time with such uncertainty, you need to protect yourself from the gloom of news headlines and social media. Take breaks between long projects or meetings. Remember to eat healthy snacks and drink water. Spend time with loved ones at home. Meditate. Even a simple message to your other coworkers can make all the difference.

 

Tools to stay connected

 

Skype

One of the earliest conferencing tools available, Skype continues to be one of the most popular apps for video chats. Now owned by Microsoft, Skype in 2020 has received a much needed revamp. Now you can even share your screen on mobile, which is particularly handy if you need to present while on the go.

 

GoToMeeting

For much larger businesses, GoToMeeting allows remote teams with up to 3,000 members to conference in at the same time. This can be vital in hosting a company-wide presentation or an all-hands meeting. In light of recent events, GoToMeeting is also providing front-line service providers “including eligible healthcare providers, educational institutions, municipalities, and non-profit organizations” with a free license for any LogMeIn product for 3 months.

 

Google Drive

There’s a good chance you’ve encountered Google Drive already, Google’s quintessential cloud-based office suite. It offers 15GB of free storage, real-time collaborative editing, and a simple, clutter-free interface. Google Drive is still one of our most favorite ways to create and share important business documents, sheets, and slides.

 

TeamViewer

Work in tech support or sales? TeamViewer allows you to quickly and securely access computers remotely. Using end-to-end encryption, a specialist can troubleshoot a faulty company laptop or assist a customer with the proprietary software, without having to meet in person. While there are other ways to accomplish the same task with a VPN, TeamViewer is still the easiest and safest way to do so.

 

GitHub

If you’re working on an app, video game, or similar software product, then GitHub is your new best friend. A repo hosting service, it allows you to store all your code in one central place, and audit each person that adds, removes, or changes anything in your project. Other useful features include kanban boards and wikis for keeping your team on the same page, no matter where you are.

The impact of remote work is here to stay. We hope that these resources will help you through a particularly challenging time and that you may be able to carry these lessons on in the months to come.

How Small Businesses Can Use Video Marketing to Grow

How Small Businesses Can Use Video Marketing to Grow

In the last decade, you may have noticed a paradigm shift in how users consume online content. Websites that used to publish lengthy product guides and listicles have all of a sudden focused on posting videos. Why is that?

For one, technology and online habits in the past ten years have improved drastically, allowing us to watch full-length movies on the subway. Even the websites we frequent have changed— social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have prioritized auto-playing videos in their feed over text posts.

Second, the value of video marketing has skyrocketed. Nutrition e-commerce TigerFitness reported a 60% returning customer rate after employing a video marketing strategy, reportedly three times the industry standard. Video marketing has also helped countless businesses with overall lead generation, traffic, and sales.

But smaller companies tend to avoid video marketing altogether, believing it to be too large of an investment. In this post, we’ll cover how a small business can use video marketing to grow, without having to take out a loan.

 

What is video marketing?

As the name implies, video marketing involves any campaign or strategy that uses the medium of video to attract users or generate sales. Webinars, product guides/reviews, tutorials, vlogs, and short advertisements all fall under this category.

But why is video marketing important, and how exactly can video marketing help you grow? The answer lies in its ability to engage, educate, and compel users to action. Consider the following statistics:
 

Video marketing statistics

– 30% of mobile shoppers say video is the best medium for discovering new products. (Facebook)

– Tweets with video attract 10x more engagements than Tweets without video. (Twitter)

– LinkedIn users are 20x more likely to share a video on the platform than any other type of post. (Marketing Land)

– Video generates more engagement than any other content type on Instagram. (Mention)

– 92% of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. This was 91% in 2019, 85% in 2018, 82% in 2017, 88% in 2016 and 78% in 2015. (Wyzowl)

 

Types of videos small businesses can produce

In such a media-dominated world, companies must carefully tailor their videos to their brand identity, core offerings, target audience, and medium of delivery. Consider some of the following ways your own business can create videos that increase engagement or sales:

  • –Webinar
  • –Testimonials
  • –Explainer videos/Tutorials
  • –Company vision/About Us
  • –Product or Service Showcase

 

1. Webinar

Salesforce is known for offering some of the best CRM software solutions, with major clients such as BBVA, Unilever, T-Mobile. But with any major software company, there’s always the risk that the app becomes too large and complex for people to understand or use efficiently.

Realizing this, Salesforce now offers monthly webinars with product experts and Salesforce team members that showcase new updates or important features. Their videos (which are free to watch with a user sign up), cover the gamut of their product offering, from best practices to new additions.

Recommended for: Companies with complex/feature-rich products and services, such as marketing suites or proprietary technology.

 

2. Testimonials

In one study, 72% of customers say positive reviews and testimonials make them trust a business more. This makes total sense— after all, real customer stories and reviews always seem more useful in one’s purchasing decision.

You may be able to find actors for hire on places like Fiverr or Upwork, who will read a script in front of a green screen or take a selfie video for low rates. But if you want quality and authenticity to be your main goals, then you may be better off hiring a professional production company and using real customers. Check out some of the example testimonial videos created by Epic Productions, LLC for some inspiration.

Recommended for: Companies where trust and authenticity are paramount— law firms, household products, pet food, healthcare services.

 

3. Explainer videos and tutorials

Similar to webinars, tutorial/explainer videos are an effective means of educating an audience. The only difference is that webinars are live events, typically with a host and Q&A section afterward. Tutorial videos are more straightforward, showing you a step by step guide on how to do something. Explainer videos break down complicated topics in simple terms.

One example of a well-known tutorial video channel comes from YouTuber NikkieTutorials. Nikkie has garnered a following for her in-depth and high-quality makeup tutorials. Her videos have proven tremendously popular, generating views in the millions.

Recommended for: Companies that are seeking to inform or educate an audience on a product, service, or practice.

 

4. Company vision or about us

These days it’s not uncommon to land on a homepage with a short video describing the company— their core values, a brief history, and their main offerings. In many ways, it is a more engaging way to introduce the brand to the customer.

Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, created a video describing its Research & Advisory team to attract potential clients and partners. Mike Harris, EVP Research & Advisory, discusses the importance of digital transformation initiatives, and how his team is uniquely designed to assist companies with data-driven insights.

Recommended for: Companies with low brand awareness or visibility.

 

5. Product or service showcase

Companies can spend millions promoting and advertising a new addition to their menu or a new product line. But other strategies can be equally engaging and more cost-effective. Video is one such way.

Consider many of the products on Kickstarter. Many of these companies must find ways to entice potential investors to buy into their vision. That’s why videos are usually placed at the top, demonstrating how it works. Take the Nebia by Moen, a unique take on the showerhead design. Using images alone, the product may not be able to build as much of an interest as it has.

Recommended for: Companies introducing new products, services, or features — startups and small businesses.
 
 

Video production tips for small brands

 

1. Create videos that enhance your brand

This may go without saying, but it’s important to produce only the type of videos that work with your brand and your target audience. For example, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for an accounting services startup to suddenly hold webinars.

Think long and hard about the kind of content that you believe your customers may find most useful. You may even want to repurpose popular content (such as blog posts) as videos. Investigate the kind of videos they view on YouTube, and how you can develop content that appeals to their immediate needs.

 

2. Develop a creative brief

A standard in the creative industry, a brief ensures that everyone on the team is on the same page in terms of the project scope. You needn’t make a long or in-depth manual. Cover the main objective of the video, the key points to hit, the necessary equipment, overall budget, and a timeline. During this time, you may also want to develop a script for your video.

 

3. Make a list of the required equipment and software

If being produced in-house, you’ll need to keep track of what tools you need, both physically and digitally. That means figuring out the type of camera (you can use your phone!) for your shoot. If you are using a voiceover, you’ll need a high-quality microphone. Consider whether you will need special lighting kits and backdrops.

In terms of software, you will need something to edit the final video. Adobe Premiere is largely considered the best option for Windows, while Final Cut Pro is the best option for Mac. There is also a variety of free editing software available for you to choose from, as well as the option of hiring freelance editors. If you are creating an animated video, you will need animation software.

 

4. Choose an appropriate setting

Your shooting location will affect everything from the space you have to work with to the lighting of your shot. Typically, it is the most expensive aspect of your shoot, besides the camera and hired talent. Check out Peerspace for a list of venues that fit your needs and budget.

 

5. Set up early and keep things on track

On the actual day of the shoot, there will be a lot of moving parts to keep track of— from keeping talent happy to setting up cameras and lights. Get a headstart and put up everything early on, and it will make your shoot that much smoother. Keep your crew and cast happy by giving them frequent breaks and food to snack on.

 

6. Consider hiring an agency

If your company is not in the creative or production business, you will want to hire professionals to take care of the video. It may seem expensive, but with the time and money you save, it may pay for itself. Search around the area for reputable production companies, or ask other businesses about the services they used for their videos.
 
 

Examples of videos from small business

Now that you have an inkling of how video marketing can be used to strengthen your brand awareness and improve customer engagement, you may want to seek inspiration from other small businesses. Here are just three examples:
 

Example #1: On Legacy – Artifact Uprising

Artifact Uprising offers photo printing services, allowing users to print their memories as calendars, photo books or cards. But their video “On Legacy” is less about their services and more about the stories of their customers. In the campaign, 95-year-old Joe Bucholt shares glimpses of his life, particularly his love for his late wife Pearl, with whom he had been married for 70 years. It goes to show that the most authentic stories are the ones that can resonate most with us.

 

Example #2: Scribit – Kickstarter Campaign Video

“Why choose one decor,” the video starts, “when you can turn your wall into an interactive canvas?” That’s the premise behind Scribit, a “Write & Erase Robot” that creates wall art, murals, even to-do lists on the fly, straight from your phone. All you need is the Scribit robot, two nails, and some wire. The Kickstarter campaign video explains the concept behind Scribit clearly and elegantly.

 

Example #3: Breakdancing Gorilla Enjoys Pool Behind-the-Scenes


Sometimes total simplicity is what works best. The Dallas Zoo saw an opportunity to promote themselves when zookeeper, Ashley Orr, took a quick video on her phone of a gorilla dancing. Almost overnight, Zola, the gorilla became an Internet celebrity, and they didn’t need much more than a YouTube account and a phone.
 
Video marketing is here to stay. You don’t need expensive equipment or a production department. All you need is a subject, a camera, and editing software, and you could find a way to reach millions. How will your business captivate its next customer through the power of video?

Office Etiquette: How To Be A Better Deskmate

Office Etiquette: How To Be A Better Deskmate

When it comes to working in a shared office space, there are written and unwritten rules. Some rules may be obvious, others less so, but following them closely can lead to stronger professional relationships with your team and more fulfilling experiences at work.

Let’s explore the best ways you can become a better coworker through your office etiquette.

 

1. Be mindful of others

Although a shared office space is quite different from a traditional working environment, people are still trying to get work done. No matter what you’re doing, keep in mind how your work may be indirectly affecting (or annoying) others.

Taking an extensive phone or Skype call in an open area can be loud and distracting to others around you. Schedule a private office space or reserve a conference room ahead of time. If the call is last minute, step outside of the main area, use headphones, or lower your voice. The same goes for personal calls.

Stepping away from anyone who seems hard at work isn’t a bad idea. Noise isn’t the only thing to be aware of, consider how much space you’re using, or if your food may be giving off a strong odor. Being cognizant of how your actions impact others around you is one of the golden rules of open office space etiquette.

 

2. Communicate more clearly and openly

Shared office spaces are great for generating new ideas or sparking thoughtful conversations with others. Showing your face in the open area and working with your deskmates is a great way to find new business opportunities or just to meet new people at your office.

The key is being open to introducing yourself to new people, whether at a special event or by the coffee machine. Ask people about the work they do, any events they may be participating in, or just how their day is going. It’s not as hard as it seems.

That being said, do not be afraid to let others know if you have a deadline and cannot participate in an activity or a quick brainstorming session with a friend. Communication is key, even if you are not working directly with someone.

 

3. Invite passionate debates, avoid personal conflicts

Offices are naturally tense environments, and coworkers are bound to clash or argue. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, fear of conflict can lead to the avoidance of constructive debates. He writes:

“All great relationships require productive conflict in order to grow. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work. And the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”

But when arguments turn personal, the conflict becomes less about the work and more about attacking each other. This should be avoided at all costs. If you are to have a passionate, even heated conversation with someone, make sure to keep it professional.

 

4. Come prepared and ready to work

No one likes working with someone who is two steps behind or constantly forgetting things. When going to a shared office space, be sure that you wear the proper dress code and have all the tools necessary to get your work done. If listening to music helps you focus, remember to bring your headphones. Some people even bring their own laptop stand, notebooks, pens and pencils, and laptop mouse.

Another thing to remember: just because it is called a shared office space does not mean that everything is meant to be shared. It’s important to always ask permission before using people’s chargers or equipment.

Check out our other post on tips for staying focused in a coworking space.

 

5. Stay clean and organized

Nobody likes a dirty and disorganized deskmate. No matter how busy you or your team become during the day, there’s no excuse for leaving a messy workstation.

Remember to take your belongings with you after using a desk. Clean, pack or discard any food or dinnerware after eating. Return any office supplies you may have borrowed from the building staff or your nearby deskmates.

Staying clean and hygienic is one of the top “unwritten” open office space rules to respecting the space and those around you.

 

6. Cultivate a culture of health and safety

Between all the deadlines and meetings, it can be easy to forget to take care of one’s health. We are quick to throw ourselves into working overtime or skipping lunch to stay productive. Help each other out by developing healthy habits and checking in on each other frequently.

Every once in a while, ask how your deskmate is faring with their work, and see if you can help take anything off their plate. If you see them particularly exhausted or depressed, talk to them, encourage them to take a break, or even leave early.

Never let work get in the way of someone’s well-being. The best office environments are the ones where everyone is excited to come in each day.

 

7. Respond to calls and messages more frequently

If you’re not in the office or working somewhere else, responsive communication is key. It ensures that you are both on the same page, even if you aren’t in the same room.

Whenever you receive a call, email, or text message, aim for a reasonable and consistent window of time for a response. For some that may be within one to three hours. The window is entirely up to you, but it’s essential you stick to it.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to respond in a timely fashion, create an auto-response email, such as when you are out for a vacation or in an important meeting. Doing so will help set expectations for your coworkers.

 

8. Be punctual to meetings

Be on time. Whenever you are late, even by a few minutes, you are signaling to someone that you do not prioritize their time. Traffic, late trains, and other obligations always get in the way, so prepare accordingly.

There’s an old quote that goes: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” That may seem like an extreme concept, but it may help you take punctuality more seriously. When in doubt, set an alarm and plan on being there fifteen minutes early, just in case anything comes up.

 

9. Praise hard work and major accomplishments

The day-to-day work can become so consuming that we forget to celebrate the small victories. But it’s vital to congratulate your coworkers on their work, whether they worked extensively on a certain project, or they pass a milestone such as a first anniversary.

Write or draw a quick note. Hand them a card. Or simply say directly. There are several ways you can show your appreciation without spending a fortune. A little can go a long way.

 

10. Master small talk, not gossip

Everyone has their own opinion of small talk, but the truth is that it’s an essential part of socializing with just about anyone. The best way to approach small talk is to be as genuine as possible. Be curious about your coworkers. Ask about their weekend, their plans for the night, their hobbies and interests outside of work.

There is a line you shouldn’t cross— make sure you never disparage or harass another coworker, even if they aren’t present. Nothing is worse than being known as the office gossip or creep. It lowers team morale and creates unfounded rumors. Rise above petty gossip or unwarranted advances and instead praise other coworkers genuinely.

 

Observing Shared Workspace Etiquette

The coworking experience depends heavily on the people who adhere to the open office space rules and etiquette. Those who follow the rules and etiquette, the ones who make and take every opportunity to treat others politely and keep their space clean, tend to work more efficiently and have a more satisfying office experience. Check out some of the office etiquette rules around the world in the infographic below.

International Office Etiquette Infographic

From Visually.

Just remember that your workspace is shared with others, so treat your deskmates’ space and privacy with as much respect as you would like in return.

Check out the various Novel Coworking locations available and discover how you can learn to love your office.

What is a Virtual Assistant and How Do You Manage One?

What is a Virtual Assistant and How Do You Manage One?

What is a virtual assistant?

So what does a virtual assistant do? A virtual assistant is an independent contractor that offers administrative services to a company remotely. The term “virtual assistant” emerged in the 90s to describe the burgeoning trend of virtual work— thanks to major technological innovations, workers could begin sharing documents and taking important business calls from outside their offices.

Virtual assistants have surged in popularity over the last few decades due to the evolving nature of business. Many companies are opting to save money on large office spaces and bloated teams, and instead are investing in flexible work arrangements and schedules. The result is a more agile and modern approach to team organization and project management.

 

Types of VAs

Virtual assistants come with different skills and specializations. Each one can help you with a specific function or department of your business. Below are just a few examples of the different types of virtual assistants available:

1. Bookkeeper – Great with accounting and tracking budgets for various projects.
2. Administrator – Schedules meetings, handles communication between executives and outside entities.
3. Scribe – Types notes during meetings or presentations.
4. Social media manager – Handles the company’s various social accounts.
5. Developer – Assists in the development of an app or website.
6. Designer – Designs infographics, logos, flyers, and other visual collateral.
7. Analyst – Researches, collects and analyzes valuable business data.

The role of a virtual assistant can also change depending on the business. Some companies may even hire virtual assistants that handle multiple responsibilities at once.

 

4 benefits of having a VA

 

Reduce operating costs

Virtual assistants can provide inexpensive yet invaluable services to your company, allowing your operations to reduce costs. For example, a company may choose to hire a data analyst to evaluate the performance of a recent billboard campaign. The analyst may provide vital insights that affect the success of future billboard campaigns, more than covering the initial costs of hiring a virtual assistant.

 

Save time on initiatives and projects

Many of the tasks undertaken by virtual assistants tend to be repetitive, such as taking notes or bookkeeping. These tasks can take away from more pressing issues, such as client meetings or lead generation. When leaders delegate time-consuming tasks to virtual assistants, they can focus on the more important tasks on their agenda.

 

Greater work efficiency

Leaders aren’t the only ones that benefit— other team members also have a lot on their plate and could always use help. Social media managers, for instance, are most effective when they can assign writing, research, or graphic design to virtual assistants, allowing them to focus on editing and delivery.

 

A healthier, more flexible work environment

Remote work has the potential to transform the culture of your company. Letting your team members work from wherever they are can have a tremendous impact on employee wellness. Consider a pregnant mother needing some time away from the office or a digital native that prefers working on the go. Both of these employees can accomplish their work like anyone else, but the ability to remote work means they can do so at their convenience.

 

5 ways to use a VA to grow your business

 

Data entry

Finance, accounting, and data firms rely on carefully organized information, whether it’s a balance sheet or the results of a large-scale study. While the act of data entry is relatively simple, it can be monotonous, particularly if your skills are better applied elsewhere. Having a dedicated virtual assistant to focus on data entry can free up your schedule while developing a more accurate means of data collection.

 

Customer service

According to Microsoft, 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Customer service, despite its necessity in modern business, continues to be an afterthought for many organizations. As a result, potential leads and loyal customers turn on a brand in a matter of seconds, after just one negative experience. Having a dedicated person or team to cater to these one-off incidents can significantly impact a brand’s lasting reputation.

 

Administrative tasks

Scheduling meetings, following up on email communications, maintaining records… these are tasks simple enough that they can be done by just about anyone. But to do them well, it’s best to hire someone that specializes in this type of work. When your team doesn’t have to worry about administrative work, they are free to focus on the work they specialize in.

 

Sales outreach

Sales are vital to the lifeblood of a business, but the actual sales outreach part can be a major time investment. Many virtual assistants are trained to handle cold calling, email campaigns, and other outreach efforts. Since much of the act of outreach can be done over the phone or on a laptop, it can be the perfect job for a virtual assistant.

 

Social media management

Despite the widespread use of social media in today’s society, many business leaders still fail to see its value in marketing. Partly because they do not want to invest their time or money into a practice they do not fully understand. A virtual assistant dedicated to social media can make all the difference—ensuring your company maintains an online presence while creating a two-way channel for loyal customers.

 

How much does a VA cost?

Virtual assistant fees can vary greatly depending on several factors, including type and frequency of work, level of professional experience, country of origin, and technical expertise needed. Below are example rates for different types of virtual assistants.

 

Administrative Professional, Data Entry

Description: Proofreading, data entry, clerical work, research, Excel, etc.
Average Hourly Rate: $12 – 20
Average Monthly Fee (20 hrs/wk): $960 – 1,600
Average Monthly Fee (40 hrs/wk): $1,920 – 3,200

 

Marketing VA, Customer Service, Accounting Support

Description: Copywriting, budgets/accounting, marketing support, customer support, CRM software experience, email marketing, social media marketing; software like PowerPoint, Quickbooks, Salesforce, WordPress, etc.
Average Hourly Rate: $20 – 35+
Average Monthly Fee (20 hrs/wk): $1,600 – 2,800
Average Monthly Fee (40 hrs/wk): $3,200 – 5,600

 

Advanced VA, Consultant, Executive Assistant

Description: Business consulting, content management, project management, advanced IT/site management, web development, and server management
Average Hourly Rate: $38 – 50
Average Monthly Fee (20 hrs/wk): $3,040 – 4,000
Average Monthly Fee (40 hrs/wk): $6,080 – 8,000

Source: Upwork, freelancers in North America with over 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.

 

Where can you find a VA?

Now that you know why to get a virtual assistant and how much it might cost, it’s time to find one. Just like searching for any other new hire, you have to look in several places.

 

Upwork

With over 12 million freelancers around the world, Upwork has built a reputation as the largest freelance marketplace in the world. With that status, however, comes a few challenges. For one, Upwork has a notorious support system that fails to assist both freelancers and companies in the event of a contract breach. Companies on Upwork will also have to deal with a tricky algorithm that prioritizes high paying jobs. Nevertheless, you won’t find a more substantial pool of talent to source your next virtual assistant. We recommend carefully reviewing their profile and work history before contracting a VA to work.

 

Fiverr

Based in Tel-Aviv, Fiverr is another freelance platform that has become a household name. Fiverr freelancers offer a host of services, including website design, translation, copywriting, SEO, data entry, and much more. The platform is frequently used by companies like Facebook, Google, MIT, Netflix, and PayPal. Unlike Upwork, Fiverr services are charged as flat fees, starting at $5 up to several thousand.

 

Social media

You’d be surprised how many assistants you can find on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Profinder works similarly to Upwork or Fiverr: list the service that you want, hash out the details (one-time project or ongoing, deadlines), and receive up to five free offers from on-demand professionals. Social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are also effective ways to find virtual assistants with specific talents.

 

VA agency

Working with an agency is one of the quickest, most efficient, and reliable means of connecting with a virtual assistant. Places like Zirtual and VA Networking offer easy access to countless skilled assistants and have even been featured on Entrepreneur, StartupNation, Inc., and Reader’s Digest. Many VA agencies also provide additional resources, training, and coaching for these freelancers, so they will likely be more prepared and better fits for the job than someone you may find elsewhere.

 

How to hire and manage a VA

 

Set expectations from the start

Always start with the scope of the project and the responsibilities expected of the virtual assistant. How much time should the project take? How will the VA be paid? What is considered in-scope, and what is a stretch goal? These are the types of questions you want to be asking yourself because it is very likely your virtual assistant will ask once hired. That’s why it’s crucial to provide clear guidelines and process documents such as an SOW (Scope of Work) to set the scope and responsibilities; this prevents any confusion and enhances the likelihood of success.

 

Define a daily schedule

Once all the contracts are signed, the next step is to define a consistent schedule for work or checking in. Because virtual assistants are not physically present in the office, it can be challenging to ensure they stay on task or communicate clearly. Speak with the virtual assistant about their availability, and find overlaps between your company schedule and their schedule. If they live overseas, you’ll also have to take the time difference into account.

 

Define a budget

One of the most compelling reasons to hire a virtual assistant is cost—virtual assistants are by far more affordable than full-time hires. But without a budget, you can easily spend more than you intend to. In setting up a project for a VA, create estimates for how long each task should take, and accordingly, how much each task will cost based on the VA’s rate. Be as upfront as possible about your budget, and you can avoid potential fallouts or disagreements regarding compensation.

 

Track time and tasks

Accountability is key when it comes to remote work. Nothing stops a virtual assistant from claiming to have worked on something when they haven’t, or conversely, spending hours on a project but not having it tracked. While self-tracking is based on a code of honor, it’s still an effective way to keep tabs on project completion and overall workload. Use project management apps like Mavenlink, Asana, or Basecamp to evaluate the overall progress and efficiency of your virtual assistants.

 

Provide useful performance feedback

To truly support and push your virtual assistants to improve, provide them with monthly or even quarterly reports; this can be as simple as a quick one-on-one conversation, but it is most important to address the greatest strengths and opportunities for improvement. Your virtual assistant will appreciate the honesty and repay the gesture through their efforts.

Want to learn more tips on managing remote workers? Visit our article on best practices.

Virtual Assistant Infographic

Source: OVA Virtual

Virtual assistants are more than just remote workers. They can form the backbone of your business even as you work on other tasks. Their work may not always impact the bottom line directly. Still, their presence can be felt by everyone on the team, particularly when they can shift their focus from more repetitive tasks (such as social media or data entry) to other priorities. Give them the proper goals and guidance, and virtual assistants can genuinely transform the way your team operates.

The benefits of an executive office suite

The benefits of an executive office suite

Are you in the market for a new office? Then you may be wondering what the difference is between an executive suite and a traditional office space. This week’s blog post will explore why executive suites are a great option for startups that require a collaborative environment and corporations looking to branch into new cities. 

 

What is an executive suite?

An executive suite is a collection of shared offices that is used by executives or leadership teams. Executive offices are also frequently referred to as a type of serviced office. Serviced offices are similar to traditional offices or office buildings, but they are furnished, equipped, and managed by another company. 

Entrepreneur’s Small Business Encyclopedia defines executive office suites as, “Shared offices with services provided by a management firm.” Novel Coworking’s office suites, for example, provide access to communal lounge areas, kitchenettes, conference rooms, business services, mail service, and more. 

Featured above is a Smart Suite from Novel Coworking Superior in Chicago

 

What is the difference between an executive suite and office space?

The key difference between executive offices and conventional office space is that executive suites provide added features that are not listed in a traditional lease. Executive suites often include:

Fully furnished – Move-in ready offices allow teams to cut back on furniture and moving costs, while also minimizing startup time. This is a great option for teams who need to transition into their new space quickly. 

Amenity-rich – Unlike traditional office space, executive suites include amenities such as coffee, wi-fi, snacks, and more. Amenities not only provide value to employees, but also save on costs associated with running an office. 

Business services – Management teams for executive suites provide business services such as mail delivery, building management, and printing capabilities. 

Communal spaces – The community environment of an executive suite is a large part of what distinguishes it from a traditional office space. The provided conference rooms and collaborative  environments are great for developing a company’s brand and community. 

 

What are the benefits of renting an executive suite?

While traditional office spaces may hold their own appeal, executive suites have a number of clear advantages:

Affordability – The office should not only provide a great place to work, but it should also be affordable. The savings associated with an executive office suite make it an attractive option for business owners.

Location – Executive office suites can make renting an office space in a major city much more practical. Novel Coworking locations can be found in key business districts across the U.S.

Flexibility – Lease terms for executive office suites range from monthly to half-year agreements, allowing for greater flexibility and future growth opportunities. 

Networking – These vibrant communities include lunch n’ learns, happy hours, and other networking events. Networking opportunities foster richer connections than a conventional office space.

Support – By providing a supportive team, executive office suites are able to deliver additional value to clients. The Novel Coworking team helps to shape lively communities and enrich client experiences. 

“I love supporting our client’s business and watching their story unfold. Just like every story, there is a beginning, middle and end— theirs begins at Novel.” – Kelsey Punsalan, Community Manager at Novel Coworking Gaslamp.

 

Who can benefit from renting an executive suite?

The office suites at Novel Coworking can accomodate 10 to 500 person teams, making them a great fit for a variety of businesses. Executive offices can benefit publicly-traded companies, satellite offices, and venture-funded startups. 

Flexible leases and customizable offices allow for huge growth opportunities. Novel Coworking client Athena Bitcoin started with a small private office at Novel Coworking’s Katy Building in Dallas, then added a modest office suite at Novel Coworking’s Wacker building in Chicago. After another year of amazing growth, they added a second customized suite at the same location complete with original murals, a fully equipped kitchen, and fantastic views of the Chicago River. 

Novel Coworking client Athena Bitcoin started in a small private office and grew into a large, customized suite.

 

Athena Bitcoin‘s customized suite.

 

How much do executive suites cost?

Finding a productive and collaborative workspace is a major step for any business. Not only should the office provide a great place to work, but it should also be affordable. 

When deciding between a traditional office and an executive suite, business owners should compare the cost of rent with the cost of services and amenities. It’s also important to consider the location and how it reflects upon the business. Is the office easily accessible to key clients and partners? 

Where can you find an executive suite that fits your business goals? Novel Coworking provides office suites in the heart of major cities across the U.S. at an affordable and inclusive rate. The Novel Coworking SmartSuites™ start at $2,999 per month and offer between 800 to 11,000 square feet. 

 

Visit our blog for more tips on finding an office space that’s right for your business. To learn more about Novel Coworking’s office suites, visit our Plans and Pricing page. 

How to Organize a Hackathon

How to Organize a Hackathon

A hackathon is an event, often hosted by a tech company, where programmers and technology professionals form teams to collaborate on a project. These teams are able to invent new solutions to recurring problems. This week’s blog post will explore how to organize a hackathon and how it can benefit a brand.

 

What is the purpose of a hackathon?

Hackathons provide a collaborative space for innovative minds to combine creativity with technology. According to Dave Fontenot, editor of Hackathons Anonymous, hackathons create an environment for problem solvers to build a website, mobile app, or hardware hack with the goal of starting from scratch and ending with a prototype. These events typically last between 24 to 48 hours.

 

What is an internal hackathon?

An internal hackathon, also known as a corporate hackathon, is conducted by a specific brand for its employees. This allows an organization to promote collaboration and engagement among different departments while crowdsourcing ideas. Internal hackathons also allow employees from non-technical backgrounds to provide their perspective which can lead to innovative problem solving.

Hackathons happen to be one of Facebook’s oldest traditions– in fact, the “Like” button was the result of a company hackathon!

 

Why would you want to run a hackathon?

In addition to solving the problems, hackathons create several benefits for brands, including team building and recruitment opportunities. Below are a few reasons to run a hackathon.

Technology Innovation – Hackathons provide a cost-effective way to explore new ideas and take risks. By inviting diverse perspectives and setting a strict time limit, these events generate a productive and creative atmosphere. Participants translate their lofty visions into innovative solutions.

Community Building – Every industry in our modern world is impacted by technology. This makes it increasingly important to create space for entrepreneurs, tech experts, and industry leaders to collaborate and solve problems together with a focus on technology. Plus, it’s a great way to boost motivation for current employees.

Brand Recognition – Hosting a hackathon can increase brand awareness in the tech community. It can also improve brand perception and generate positive press about your business.

Developer Engagement – Hackathons establish communication channels between developers and tech users. This provides a feedback loop that makes solutions all the more valuable.  

Recruitment Opportunity – It can be difficult to find the right developers and data scientists for your team. Hackathons allow brands to witness teams in action and build a positive reputation with tech experts.

 

What do you need for a hackathon?

The first step to running a successful hackathon is to attend a few of them and understand how they operate. Here are a few key considerations to help brands run successful hackathons:

Theme – What problem does the brand want to solve? A few themes might include education, non-profits, health, transportation, energy, robotics, and many more. Here is a list of hackathons by theme.

Time – Preparing a hackathon can take two to six weeks to plan. How many people will be in attendance, what activities will be included, and what’s the scale of the event? No matter how much time you estimate, be sure to add additional time for unexpected delays or trouble shooting.

Sponsors – Events are expensive. Consider securing sponsors who can help pay for the event. Tiered sponsorship can help to attract a variety of supporters at different price points.

Venue – Choose a space that is accessible and has plenty of space for attendees to work. If attendees are working long hours, it’s important that the space is comfortable. The venue should include a large space for the kickoff and closing of the event, as well as break out rooms for teams to work. Consider where your attendees are located and how to manage parking.

Novel Coworking might be a great option for your next hackathon! Learn more about planning an event in a coworking space here.

Website – How will attendees sign up for the event? It’s important to have an accessible landing page to display information and provide a place to register. Be sure to promote the website on social media and create a Facebook event page.

Participants – First, reach out to the brand’s network. If the brand is interested in hosting a hackathon, it’s likely that they already have people in their community who would be interested in attending. Next, reach out to tech influencers and media professionals who write about the tech industry. Social media pages and groups can be especially useful for finding participants.

Equipment – Create a list of items that the venue may not provide. Some examples might include tables, chairs, power strips, cables, monitors, etc.

Food and Drink – Attendees will be working hard for long hours. It’s important to provide food options with dietary restrictions taken into consideration.

Judges – Decide who will determine the winner(s). Try to choose known industry leaders, sponsors, and organizers when possible. Be sure to determine the judging criteria ahead of time and provide clarity to attendees.

Prizes – What unique offerings can the brand provide? Try to offer unique prizes that show gratitude to the participants for their hard work.

 

Organizing a hackathon presents a great opportunity to network with other tech professionals and creative problem solvers. Looking for more opportunities to network with like-minded coworkers in a collaborative work environment? Visit Novelcoworking.com and book a tour today!