Returning to the office after a considerable period of lockdown will be one of the unique business challenges of this generation. There are a lot of questions on everyone’s mind: Is it safe to go back? How different will it be? What can I do to prepare? The answers will vary greatly from company to company.
In this special post, we’ll share essential tips, updates, and resources to help your business return to the office. Read on to learn more.
Preparing your team for a return to the workplace
Coming up with a clear plan for returning to the office will help avoid confusion and prevent possible transmission. Remember to take it slow and prioritize everyone’s safety each step of the way.
Start by understanding the guidelines and recommendations for returning to work, which varies by industry and location. In the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, businesses will need to open up in phases, first allowing a limited number of people with face masks and social distancing in place, and then gradually easing restrictions to normalcy.
Business owners would do well to start understanding the new needs of your team. In a post-COVID-19 world, some team members may want to continue working remotely more or require a little more time before fully returning to work. Listen to each team member with an open heart, and negotiate on terms that work best for both parties.
In the beginning, a less is more approach may be safest. Only bring the staff you need at the start, and follow all local and national health recommendations, including wearing a mask and regularly washing your hands.
Healthy standards in commercial buildings
Around the world, each country has had its own response to the pandemic and has developed its own set of recommendations. As such, there are no widely held international health standards as it relates to coronavirus. With that said, there are a few common safeguards in countries that are opening up again.
In an unpublished study by the CDC and various national health institutes, experts believe the coronavirus can live up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces. This suggests that even in areas with decreasing numbers of cases, it’s still possible to contract or spread the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face.
Building managers should take extra precaution by sanitizing frequently touched surfaces: door handles, elevator buttons, tables, chairs, faucet handles, bathrooms, fridges, and of course workstations. The EPA has a list of cleaning products that are most effective against the coronavirus. In response, Novel Coworking also frequently sanitizes high traffic areas for our clients’ safety.
In countries that have already opened up again, face masks have become a part of everyday life. Although masks have generated heated debates, most medical experts including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now believe they help prevent further transmission where social distancing isn’t possible. For symptomatic or sick individuals, masks prevent others from getting sick through coughs or sneezes. For healthy individuals, masks prevent the contraction of the virus.
Here is a helpful video made by the Czech Republic’s Minister of Health on why masks are so important:
Be sure to consult your company’s leadership if you are considering the use of temperature measurements at work.
Should you keep social distancing? At the time of writing and publishing, the answer is yes. Since the beginning, social distancing has proven to be the most effective measure against preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In the workplace, this means avoiding high traffic areas such as a water cooler or kitchen and teleconferencing or remote working whenever possible. Some employees have even implemented new food policies (bringing your own lunch into work and avoiding the lunchroom) and sneeze guards for heightened safety.
The Society for Human Resource Management has created a helpful guide to illustrate the importance of social distancing in the office.
Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed a major shift in the way people work. Companies have gone from leasing expensive cubicles to using private offices and coworking spaces. This shift has also opened up opportunities for smaller businesses to use shared space to both save money and improve collaboration.
But only in 2020, with most of the world’s workforce at home, did entrepreneurs and small businesses realize the importance of flexible working conditions. Workers that were required to come into work have suddenly found time and freedom. Leaders may have noticed higher engagement and overall morale in their team.
So why should you keep a remote team? Because in the event your offices or headquarters aren’t accessible, a remote team can continue operations as normal. For some companies, like a web or app development team, remote work is already ingrained into the culture, because of the nature of their technology.
As a business owner or entrepreneur, you may have noticed that some employees perform better remotely than others. This can happen for a number of reasons: their remote environment, their access to the Internet, distractions at home, or the simple need to be surrounded by other productive workers.
So how can you identify people that work well remotely?
Self-motivated. Hands down one of the most obvious indicators of someone who works well remotely is if they are able to set their own daily goals and tasks.
Autonomous. In the same vein, these workers tend to work best on their own, not always needing guidance or direction.
Great communicator. Remote work takes away many of the usual communications we tend to rely on, such as body language and tone of voice. Remote workers should be able to convey these nuances in their writing and communication.
Dependable. Remote workers should be someone you can count on when the going gets tough. Just because they can work from where they want, should not lessen their responsibilities.
Willing to improve. Working remotely can take some adjustment, but all that matters, in the end, is that the employee is willing to learn from their mistakes and do better in the future.
Is the choice between remote and in-office too difficult to make? One solution you can try (and may help in the transition back to the office) for your own team is to institute a hybrid remote/in-person work hours schedule. This means allowing your team to work from wherever they want a few days each week. This offers a greater sense of freedom and flexibility for your employees without sacrificing the productivity and collaboration that arises in the office.
Understanding psychological effects after a lockdown
Whether you’ve been directly affected by the coronavirus, or you’ve experienced severe cabin fever in lockdown, it’s important to address the mental health implications of COVID-19. People are feeling lost, scared, confused, and even angry, and it’s your job as a leader to provide some direction and assurance.
Identify early stress or burnout indicators. Just because someone works remotely does not mean they are having an easy time. They may be concerned about their family’s living situation or a mortgage that needs to be paid off. They may be overworking out of fear and could end up burning out without realizing it. Keep an eye out for these signs:
Longer work hours
Symptoms of fatigue, tiredness
Bitter or abrasive attitude towards peers
Repeated errors, mistakes
Schedule regular check-ins to see how your team members are handling their workloads. Offer emotional support to everyone in the company, regardless of title or role. As a society, we tend to frown upon individuals that exhibit emotions, viewing it as a sign of weakness. Instead, encourage your team to be honest about how they are feeling. Create channels that let them speak freely, and then refer them to the proper resources or counseling. A team cannot work effectively if its members are emotionally or mentally weighed down.
Create a safe environment for communication
Finally, it’s absolutely vital that you develop a system that encourages honest feedback and communication. Whether or not people are ready to return to the office, coming to a company-wide decision can only truly work if everybody feels rightfully heard.
There’s bound to be cases where people argue or debate for a number of reasons. In these cases, it’s important to hear both sides out but also to flat out reject any speech that may be used to belittle, demean, or injure someone else’s character. People should feel free to say whatever is on their minds, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.
Tips to keep your team safe on the transition to the workplace
Establish a gradual transition to normalcy
For the past few months, your workers have grown accustomed to a new way of working. It’ll take some time to go back to normal. Although some of them may be ready to get out of their home, it’s in everyone’s best interest and safety not to rush the transition back to the office.
Start by having informal conversations with your team on how they feel, their level of comfort, and their overall decision to go back to work. If it helps, you may even want to make returning to work optional until a wider city or state order deems it safe to return. Always keep your team’s safety the priority.
Make it clear
Provide clear communication channels that distribute important updates as well as allow anybody in the company to report their concerns. For much larger companies, this is vital— dozens, perhaps even hundreds of people will be looking for leadership during these trying times.
Be as direct and supportive as you can in your communications. Your team should never feel lost, no matter what they are doing or what position they hold.
Adapt and evolve
2020 has upended many of the world’s preconceived notions about the workplace and work in general. Companies need to adapt accordingly. This requires taking a long, hard look at the company’s past and how to update the business for the future.
Enable new ways to collaborate online— whether that involves standup meetings, updated processes, or new tools. Ask yourself: how can your team come out of this pandemic stronger, smarter, and more capable than before?
Offer additional support and benefits
Sick leave, vacation days, 401k contributions… These are just a few of the perks that help engage team members. As other companies start ramping up their re-hiring efforts after the pandemic, your company will need to stay competitive to attract the best from the talent pool. One of the most effective ways to do this is to offer a benefits package that truly makes the team feel supported during tough times.
Going back to work will be a major undertaking, for just about any company. It will require considerable planning. There may even be risks along the way. But take this moment as an opportunity to grow, individually and as a team. 2020 has shown that many of our old ways of working must be updated for a new world. How will your company adapt?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
–Company vision/About Us
–Product or Service Showcase
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.
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 byMoen, 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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 locationscan 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.
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.
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 shouldcompare the costof 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 Coworkingprovides 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.