It’s 2020 and modern technology is making everything smart. You have smartphones, smartwatches, smart cars, and even smart homes. It’s no wonder that we are entering the era of smart spaces. Now, technology is setting its sights on another important space – the office space.
What is a smart workspace?
A smart workspace or smart office is a technology-optimized space designed to increase productivity and provide ease of access for individuals working within the space. Just as smart homes make living more convenient through connected thermostats, fridges, and other devices, smart offices use connected equipment and rooms to completely transform your day-to-day business.
Smart workspaces are made possible by equipping the office space with interconnected tools. This is called IoT or Internet of Things. Put simply, IoT is a collection of internet-connected devices that exchange information or data. In an office, these devices can be your front desk, which tells you all about your visitors, to door handles protected with fingerprint security.
In the same way that the Internet forever changed how we work, smart workspaces represent the next evolution: using IoT to change where we work.
What are smart buildings?
A study by Dell and Intel in 2016 showed that nearly half of the workforce expects to be working in an office that is enabled by IoT and smart office apps. In 2019, Microsoft entered the smart building era by introducing a tech-enabled office building in Singapore. It showcases an automated system that helps manage the building’s operations and all other systems within. The structure uses sensors to gather data and provide insights into building use. This informs managers on how to best reduce energy consumption and minimize their environmental impact.
As we transition every aspect of our daily lives into a tech-powered future, we’ll increasingly notice the influence of artificial intelligence and IoT. Automation will continue to make everything more efficient, and efficiency is key to a successful business. Most companies rely on automation when it comes to manufacturing goods inside their factories and warehouses. If entrepreneurs take that same principle into the workspace of human resources, customer service, sales, and office management, companies can start to develop a more efficient approach when it comes to business.
Automation in a smart building is all about monitoring different aspects of the structure. Imagine being able to control all aspects of a building – heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and other daily functions in one centralized control room. This type of infrastructure allows owners and operators to easily predict and determine needs when it comes to tools and devices within the building. It collects and provides data to reduce energy consumption and maintenance while increasing reliability and performance.
Benefits of Smart Offices
Companies that are looking to boost productivity and maintain a competitive edge would do well to adopt the smart office concept. Here are a few reasons why:
Improves collaboration and increases productivity
A defining trait of successful groups or brands is how well their employees are able to collaborate. A smart office aims to provide a space that not only promotes but enhances collaboration between individuals. This would naturally lead to a more productive workspace as teams and individuals are able to share ideas at a rapid pace, eliminating unnecessary roadblocks that get in the way of communication.
Another way to look at productivity is how quickly individuals can get things done. Smart offices are equipped with software to help eliminate menial, basic tasks such as booking a conference room or looking for a space to plug in your laptop. This reduces frustrations and minor annoyances experienced by employees in the workspace and helps focus on work-related tasks.
For most, trying to find a space to talk and exchange ideas often takes a while, sometimes employees struggle and spend more time trying to connect than actually collaborating. Although open office spaces can foster collaboration between different companies, they can also be distracting for larger team sizes.
Smart offices don’t have this issue. These spaces are usually large enough to accommodate up to 500 people, meaning there’s plenty of room to hold a meeting, brainstorming session, or even a happy hour. This is your company’s office, so it should make company-wide communication that much easier and more convenient.
Provides actionable insights
One of the selling points of a smart office is that it’s easy to gather data on everything going on within the space. With enough data on how your team uses an office, you can better understand how to create the optimal conditions for a productive team.
Many smart offices are equipped with smart speakers like Amazon Alexa, which can give you updates on your office supply stock (and order them for you) or outstanding tasks on your to-do list. Smart lights and NEST thermostats can also inform you about usage, allowing you to adjust accordingly. This setup simultaneously empowers your team and lowers your company overhead.
At its core, a smart office aims to improve the working environment for employees. It aims to make each individual’s job easier, while also providing a fun environment for employees to stay motivated.
Technology is always evolving. Our parents and grandparents could never have imagined the world we live in today. Smart offices and smart buildings are simply a step in a more connected and integrated world. As technology continues to leap forward, entrepreneurs must push themselves to utilize their capabilities and integrate them into our daily work lives.
Today, people can work from almost anywhere in the world, provided they have the right device and Internet access. Tools like ZOOM and Slack have made communication easier than ever before, connecting team members miles apart with the click of a button. Already, 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t challenges in communication. Remote communication and distributed teams are only a few decades old, and we still struggle to form the right routines or access the most efficient technology.
If you already have a distributed team in place, this guide will help you accomplish a greater level of cohesion and communication. If you’ve been planning on starting your own distributed team, you’ve picked the perfect place to start.
What are distributed teams?
Distributed teams are composed of members that are located geographically apart from each other. They may work in information technology, marketing, product development, or similar field that does not require a person to be physically present.
Because distributed teams are located in different areas of the country, even the world, they get to enjoy a few benefits, such as a better work-life balance and more efficient team work schedules.
The differences between a remote team, distributed team and co-located team
Remote teams and distributed teams are the same— they involve a group of workers that operate in different geographical areas while members of a co-located team all work in the same location.
Co-located teams are generally perceived to be stronger because of their ability to communicate more clearly and frequently. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t co-located teams that perform less favorably than a distributed team. It all depends on the challenges you face as an organization and what you do to help your team overcome them.
What are distributed organizations?
The concept of a distributed team has long seen applications in government, healthcare, military, and technology fields, but these days it can apply to almost any business: from budding startups to a major marketing division at a corporation. The term “hybrid organization” has even come to describe the companies with distributed, remote, and co-located teams combined.
In one study by the Harvard Business Review, 96% of employees said they need flexibility, yet only 47% reported having access to the types of flexibility they need. Female respondents were also more greatly affected by the flexibility gap, “only 34% of whom have access to the flexibility they need”. Remote work offers your team the ability to work on their schedule, in a location they choose.
As team members are given more options and flexibility with their work schedule (such as being able to work from home or nights as opposed to mornings), they become less stressed about usual workplace pressures. When you don’t have to think about a commute or have more time to look after a newborn and still be able to work, your team members will engage more deeply in the company culture. Low stress equals a lower turnover rate as well.
A more diverse talent pool
No longer are businesses geographically restricted in their job openings. With the Internet, anyone can be qualified as long as they have the experience to show for it. Even though there may be a shortage of healthcare IT professionals in one city, you can easily source your candidates from any other city in the world. The more diverse the team, the more possible angles they can approach a solution to a particular problem.
For startups, it means a lot less overhead when you don’t have to worry about dozens of team members on one site. For larger organizations, it provides a greater cost advantage to pick team members from less competitive cities, but with higher buying power.
Challenges of a distributed workforce
Despite the efficiency created by having a team distributed throughout the world, there also comes a set of communication challenges. Be on the lookout for these hazards while managing or working in a distributed workforce.
Lack of 1:1 interaction is the primary reason for a disjointed, distributed team. Without the ability to use nonverbal cues like body language or facial expressions, you’re cutting out major elements of a message. As much as possible, schedule video calls as opposed to sending messages, especially if the topic takes high priority. The more you can simulate the presence of someone being there, the clearer the communication.
Not all cities, states, or countries have the same access to the Internet. Places with less developed infrastructure, for example, struggle to maintain stable connections. This affects everything from the ability to work on certain projects (such as a cloud-based service) to the ability to meet during certain times. Be cognizant of your team’s own technological limitations.
Just as technology varies depending on the location, so too do cultural norms. In the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and Mainland China, a short afternoon nap known as the siesta is common. This pertains only to sleep, and how different countries view its importance. Imagine then the various other cultural differences that may exist. Understand the places where your workers are from, and you can better deliver a positive, more relevant work experience to their needs.
Guidelines for distributed teams
Despite the challenges, distributed teams can become just as productive as a co-located team given the right tools and practices. Below are a few guidelines that we recommend to ensure everyone stays on task and in sync.
Choose your communication tools wisely
When teams work in a remote capacity, the tools they utilize become even more important. After all, it’s the tools that help people stay connected and stay on task. Invest the time and money in finding the right tool for your team’s needs, and you’ll notice the results in improved workflow and overall morale. Here are a few tools worth considering:
Homeslice – If you work with people across several time zones but struggle to find a meeting time that works for everyone, Homeslice is for you. This simple tool allows you to choose two or more timezones and find common meeting times within your work schedule. Never again will you have to ask your team members in Melbourne to stay up at 10 pm.
Zoom – Videoconferencing app Zoom has been making the headlines lately, and it’s not hard to see why. The intuitive interface, lack of registration, and the ability to host up to 1000 participants (with Enterprise Plus) make it competitive in the video conferencing space. Just make sure you take the necessary precautions in protecting your Zoom calls.
Slack – Part instant messenger, part email client, Slack has disrupted the industry of text-based communication. It’s simple to use, a lot cleaner looking than the alternatives, and works with dozens of different integrations. According to Statista, 85,000 paid organization users use Slack today.
Focus on what’s most important
Teams get overly bogged down in processes that they lose sight of what truly matters. Development team leads, for example, can be so strict on naming conventions or efficient workflows, that they forget to focus on building a great product.
Set daily or weekly reminders about what each person should be totally focused on. It might be completing a certain feature of an app, delivering an important document to a client, or resolving a major customer issue. Prioritization is the key to overall success and productivity.
Organize company retreats and excursions
All work and no play can lead a team to burnout and grow resentful towards each other. Every once in awhile, organize something fun and non-work related to build the social connection between your team. It can be something like taking a company trip or having a team lunch. Distributed teams have also been using Zoom to organize happy hours, a simple, low-cost way to share a good time with the team.
Maintain clear communication with everyone
At the end of the day, tools only go so far— you have to implement the right processes to ensure everyone communicates on the same page. It’s not uncommon to see distributed teams hosting daily standups or huddle meetings. These are short, 5-minute timeboxed meetings wherein each team member gives an update on the work they are doing for the day, and any challenges they may need help with. Consider also scheduling weekly check-in meetings with team members to ensure there is enough time to discuss any major issues or concerns.
Examples of distributed organizations
The popular integrations app, Zapier, has been operated by a remote team since its inception. Starting with only three founders, Zapier has grown to over 300 people working in 28 different countries. Founder Wade Foster wrote in a blog post, “We’ve found there are three important ingredients to making remote work successful: team, tools, and process.”
Metrics and engagement tool startup Baremetrics is another remote-only team. The company doesn’t even have a main office or headquarters, only employees working from home or co-working spaces spread across four U.S. time zones. To establish a strong distributed workforce, they recommend establishing four business practices: hiring, communication, tools, and workflow.
Help desk software provider Help Scout has built a culture around remote working. The team consists of 75 members from more than 50 cities in over 12 countries. Team member Nick Francis notes how finding the right talent is the most important aspect of a remote culture. “Think of it this way,” he writes “do you think more talent exists within a 20-mile radius of your office, or on planet earth?”
Social media scheduling tool Buffer was one of the earliest remote culture workplaces on the Internet. Writer Courtney Seiter offers 40 different tips on her remote work experience over four years working for the company. Among her advice: “If you’ve hired people you trust (and if you haven’t, why not?), trust that they’re working,” and “remote or some level of remote-flexible work is for (almost) everyone! It’s within reach for more companies than you might think.”
As recent events have demonstrated, remote work is here to stay. The world is changing, away from the traditional concepts of a cubicle workspace, and towards distributed teams and coworking spaces. Have you taken the right steps to bring a remote-first culture to your organization?
In many offices, the busier you are, the more cluttered and less productive your working environment becomes. In order to improve efficiency, it is critical that you integrate a system that ensures your office space remains de-cluttered. This might seem like a simple task, but when you are in your office every day you can become accustomed, and almost immune, to the clutter. This can subsequently cause organizational problems without even realizing the holdup. The use of organizational systems can have a direct correlation to productivity, whether it applies to keeping the office clean, or as it does in creating the perfect distribution process.
Why You Should Declutter
So besides keeping an office clean and tidy, what are the benefits of keeping your office clutter-free?
Increased Productivity – The less time you spend trying to find objects and specific documents, the more time you can spend focusing on your work. Searching for your documents in the cloud can also give you greater control and access to documents while keeping your office clean.
Peace of Mind – Clutter doesn’t just affect your physical space, but your mental space too. In other words, when your mind is concerned about the state of your office, you tend to be distracted and lack the focus and concentration needed. A cluttered office tends to be representative of a worker’s state of mind.
Brand Representation – If you walked into a client’s office and found it disorganized, what would you think? Likely you would project that environment to how the client handles business. The same goes for your own brand. Keeping your office space or coworking space clean not only gives a better representation, but it’s also a way of staying respectful of the space and the other people that share it.
Let’s examine some tips for decluttering your office space and, consequently, becoming more productive.
Rather than trying to make individual decisions on what to save and discard, sometimes it is best to get rid of everything and then slowly add things back as you require them. Think of it as your computer desktop. The more applications you install, the more shortcuts show up on the desktop background. It’s only when you remove all those shortcuts that you realize how few of them you actually used.
This same principle applies to your office space or home office. It is highly likely that there are numerous items in your space that have not been touched for months, and yet they take up valuable real estate while adding nothing to your productivity. By getting rid of everything and then adding things back in as required, you can more effectively and objectively keep on the essential office supplies. Although this method is extreme, it is an excellent way to identify items that do not serve a purpose or impede your productivity (although we won’t judge you for keeping a few items for sentimental reasons).
Check out this video from organizing consultant Marie Kondo on how to organize your desk.
2. Organize your office based on practicality
Once you have reduced the clutter by following the start from scratch method, the next step is to arrange the remaining items in your workspace in order of how regularly you use them. You might use your fountain pen on a daily basis, but you probably consult your Human Resources manual once every six months.
To improve your workflow, place your most frequently used items in the top desk drawers (such as chargers and notebooks), where access is quick and easy. Have pens and pencils in a cup nearby, and store other supplies (such as headphones, staples, rubber bands) in lower drawers. Arrange the rest of the office similarly, so that your least-used items are furthest away. This simple system will increase productivity and ensure that your most frequently used things are always close by, while your other personal items can be tucked away and off your desk.
3. Sort by keep, recycle/trash, and belongs elsewhere
If you want a faster process for organizing your supplies and belongings, create three boxes or bags: keep, recycle or discard, and place somewhere else. You should be able to find a place for everything. Even those who are sentimental and tend to hold on to certain objects can find a new place for their items and still manage to remove the clutter from the office. Also consider which objects you can recycle (papers and plastics), and which ones you can throw away (empty bottles, flyers, and leaflets).
4. Get your cables under control
From phone and laptop chargers to HDMI cords and headphone dongles, the number of cables in every office seems to multiply exponentially. Whether those cables are on top of, or underneath your desk, it can be a never-ending battle to keep those cables under control. Some people choose to ignore this issue, but when a problem develops with any of your electronics, this lack of organization can cause considerable delays in identifying and correcting the problem.
An excellent solution to this issue is to invest in a Dymo Labelling system and then label every cable as you install it in your office. The next step is then to invest in a Cablox system which can quickly and easily arrange your cables and then perhaps, just as importantly, ensure they stay organized neat and tidy moving forward. If you want to be creative and save money, you can also create labels and organization boxes using film containers, paper holders, shoeboxes, and other household items.
5. Take a photograph (you might be shocked)
Have you ever visited other offices and noticed clutter that your colleague is blissfully unaware of? The same is likely true of your office. Your visitors see your office with a fresh perspective and are more observant of the clutter in your office that you may not even notice.
A great way of testing this synopsis is to take a photograph of your office from the door. This will enable you to see your working environment in the same light as your guests do, leaving you shocked by the result. If you have trouble finding clutter, try taking photos from different angles. Photographs provide an entirely different perspective, and potential problems could pop out of the picture, helping you quickly identify the areas that need to be cleaned up.
6. Digitize your notes and documents
Most of your clutter is probably paper-based: documents, business cards, sticky notes, meeting notes, and more. The problem is that these not only take up space, but most of these documents are not something you look at on a regular basis. Instead of keeping them around on the off-chance you may need it one day, digitize your documents by creating electronic copies, either by scanning them or typing them out instead.
There are numerous apps available on your smartphone which can quickly and easily scan documents and store the required details on your phone. Take photos of essential documents that you cannot risk losing, and then discard or recycle the paper versions. You can also switch to other notetaking apps, such as Evernote, Google Docs, Google Keep (a note), and the notes apps on iOS and Android phones. These apps allow you not only to digitize notes but synchronize them across multiple devices through the cloud. If you have hundreds of business cards on your desk space, either take photos or add the people as contacts, then throw them away. One benefit of digitizing your documents is that you can search through them quickly and conveniently.
7. Develop stronger organizational habits
The biggest change you can enact to stay clutter-free is to develop a new habit of cleanliness and organization. Whenever a new object is introduced into the office, such as a piece of mail or a new document, decide what you plan to do with it at that moment, or at least before the end of the day. Revisit the keep, trash/recycle, or place elsewhere idea to determine where to place the document. Preventing clutter is the best way to keep your office clean.
At Novel Coworking, we focus on providing the best facilities to enable businesses to grow, expand, and develop their organization. We are constantly looking for solutions to increase efficiency, and improve productivity. If you are determined to grow your business and look for innovative ideas, keep up-to-date with our blog for weekly business tips & inspiration.
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?
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.
For anyone that’s ever worked during the day, the afternoon slump is all too familiar. Even after a good night’s rest, when the afternoon rolls around, your mind feels tired and your body feels sluggish. Even the simplest of tasks, like having a meeting, can suddenly feel like a chore.
Everyone has their own approach to the afternoon crash. In Spain for example, the siesta is a cultural tradition of taking a short nap in the afternoon and waking up to work into the evening. Others simply rely on caffeine and energy drinks, while some simply limit the work they do.
By understanding how this afternoon crash is caused and the various factors that influence wakefulness, and taking the necessary steps, anyone can overcome the midday slump. In this post, we’ll describe the main causes as well as a few solutions to help you through your day.
What are the symptoms of the afternoon slump?
Each person experiences the afternoon slump differently, but there are a few common symptoms that when identified can help anyone combat the crash.
– Lethargy and fatigue
– Lack of concentration
– Changes in vision
– Muscle weakness
– Headaches or migraines
– Mood changes (irritability, depression)
The afternoon slump is more than general tiredness from work. It may indicate a greater, underlying issue from lack of proper nutrition or rest. If you continue to experience any of the symptoms above even after taking the necessary precautions, it is advised that you consult a medical professional.
But our bodies are complex, and our energy is affected by more than just our circadian rhythm. A heavy lunch, for example, can also be a major reason for the afternoon slump. Diet, exercise, and sleep habits all make a difference. Here are a few ways you can avoid feeling sleepy in the afternoon.
5 tips to get over the afternoon crash
1. Eat more consistently.
Start with better breakfast options. Skip the coffee and donut (the time you save comes back to haunt you in the afternoon), and opt for grains, fruit, or green tea instead. Trade cereal for oatmeal, which will help you stay more full. Pack a banana or sliced apples for the day. Reduce the fat your body consumes and focus on a steady intake of protein and carbohydrates to keep you focused. Eating light snacks consistently throughout the day as opposed to one or two high-fat meals can help you through the day. WebMD offers a few more alternatives and explanations for a healthy diet during work.
2. Drink more consistently.
Our body needs water to regulate temperature, to flush out toxins, and to overall stay hydrated. Yet because we get so wrapped up with our work, it’s so easy to forget to drink water consistently. Consider purchasing a water bottle with time markers and refilling it at a nearby water fountain. These time markers can be helpful reminders of when you are supposed to drink, which in turn will help you stay up when you need to.
3. Move more frequently.
The more sedentary you are, the more you’re likely to doze off. Regular exercise can help improve almost every bodily function- from inhaling oxygen into your lungs to pumping blood through your arteries, to basic movement like climbing stairs. It’s easier said than done, but good exercise routines will always pay off. Instead of sleeping in, try going for a run, a brisk walk, or a bike ride early in the morning. It just may help you stay alert in the afternoon. Even basic activities like standing while you work, or walking home, can make a huge difference in your wakefulness. Check out this article from the Washington Post to learn a few ways you can stay active even at work.
4. Work more creatively.
If you don’t have the luxury of leaving the office midday, find ways to make work more interesting. Move to a different side of the office for a new perspective. Break up the monotony of your to-do list by switching to shorter tasks every hour or every half-hour. Walk outside and get some daylight, or just take a ten-minute break in between major projects. If you approach your work with the same mindset each day, then feeling sleepy in the afternoon should come as no surprise. The Pomodoro Technique is an effective way of managing time while getting things done.
5. Sleep more comfortably.
Even with all these tips in mind, none of them are very effective if you’re getting less than five hours of sleep each night. Your sleep routine is equally important. Get a bed that supports your back, and set the temperature at comfortable levels. Most importantly, switch off electronics at least an hour before bed. Turning off the television and smartphone will help regulate your melatonin levels, ensuring you have a more relaxed and continuous sleep cycle. The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips for those who want better sleep, which also connects to a better diet and exercise routine.
Living a balanced life
Eating healthy and staying active aren’t new philosophies. But understanding how diet, sleep, and exercise can impact your work performance can be an eye-opening experience. It’s one thing to read about these routines in a blog, it’s another to put them in practice and notice a change. Healthier habits don’t occur overnight, but over weeks of practice, failure, and determination. But in the end, you’ll become a happier and more alert version of yourself.
Have you reviewed our options for office spaces? A coworking space may just be your best solution. The activity from all the businesses and entrepreneurs in the background keeps teams productive and honed-in. Light snacks, tea, and coffee can are available in the kitchen, giving people a slight energy boost. Finally, there are dedicated desks, standing tables, bars, couches, and private offices that create a variety of places to do your work.