Management of online staff in a virtual office presents different challenges to creating a staff management system in a brick and mortar office environment and here we take a look at some tips on how to approach it. It can take a bit of getting used to but that’s really all it is – a case of getting used to a different management approach. We’re still dealing with human beings; it’s just that they may be sitting on the other side of the world.
One crucial element of any successful relationship is trust and it’s no different with your virtual assistants. People don’t react well to a feeling that the boss doesn’t trust them and it will likely end in a relationship that breaks down. That’s why we don’t support using screenshot software which will take regular screen snapshots of the VA’s monitor throughout the working day and let you know exactly what they are doing every half hour or so. If you use this then straight away you are not showing trust to your staff; you are saying “I don’t trust you enough to work without someone watching you”. This is no basis for a relationship in the same way that most partners won’t react well to the suggestion of having a pre-nuptial arrangement for their marriage!
It’s therefore important to give your VA the benefit of the doubt. Most people are honest, have integrity and can be trusted. There’s no point in taking harsh measures on everyone because of the occasional “bad egg”. If you take care to choose your staff well so that you hire A-Players, then give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them to get the job done, backed up by having processes in place that allow you to manage them effectively, you will get better results.
It’s a good idea to keep average time logs for each task, so that you know how long everything should take. That way you can monitor if someone is taking too long. If someone is having problems with completing tasks in a timely manner then you can approach them about it from the angle that you want to learn what process they are using currently and that you want to help coach them to do it more efficiently.
When allocating tasks make sure that you give your online staff more work than they will be able to fit into the time; otherwise tasks have a habit of stretching out to fit the time provided. This is to ensure that your staff management system goes on smoothly.
Also, an important part of staff management with virtual assistants is communication. It’s much easier when you are all in the same office to call a snap meeting to discuss issues that come up. With VAs, communication and meetings need to be planned – for your benefit and theirs. It can be a lonely existence hammering away at tasks all day on your own, with no workmates or boss there for extra motivation or to pick you up on a bad day; so keeping the communication channel open is vital.
I would suggest that your VA writes an End of Day (EOD) email every day to let you know what they’ve been up to, what they’ve completed, any problems they’ve encountered and the plan for the next day. Then every following morning you can make a 30-minute Skype or GTalk Start of Day (SOD) call to your VA, where you can discuss the contents of that email, review worksheets, help to solve any issues or provide coaching wherever necessary, map out any extra tasks that come up and voice any other concerns that either of you may have. It’s a 2-way process, crucial to any staff management system, that lets you know how your online staff are getting on and keeps them connected and “in the loop”, feeling like they are an important part of your business, which they certainly are.
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I was once attracted to the idea of working for Odesk but after I got information that they use screenshots as required by clients, I got turned off with it. It is not that I do not want to get monitored while working, but I don’t want that Big Brother feeling. This disrupts your focus on your work when you know someone is always looking, literally.
Similar opinion here Nil. I know some bloggers in Cebu who earn lots in Odesk but I never really jumped into the same wagon because being monitored in that way adds to the stress of work. Of course, perhaps initially, it is acceptable that virtual bosses monitor their staff closely in some way but when they do find out a VA can be trusted, they should also trust that she knows what needs to be done and how to behave.