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Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

Virtual Assistants: Worth It?

    Everybody wants an assistant. Not only is a mark of status and rank, but it’s essential for any working professional who has any management responsibilities whatsoever. But what the economy being what it is, the number of people who can afford assistants are few and far between.

    Increasingly, professionals and entrepreneurs are turning towards virtual assistants to help them manage their workloads. Depending on the service you select, most virtual assistants are able to assist you with tasks as varied as tracking your expenses, ordering your lunch, or assisting with your PR needs…and almost all charge rates that are a mere fraction of what you would pay an on-site assistant.

    But how effective are virtual personal assistants? And how much can they really boost your productivity (or your bottom line)? Like with any business practice, there are pros and cons. So, are virtual assistants worth it? Here’s how it breaks down…

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    Pro: Low cost.

    Con: You get what you pay for.

    The great thing about virtual personal assistants is that many companies offering these services have workers based overseas, meaning that the prices they charge for a full day of work are equivalent to what you drop at Starbucks on your way to the office each morning. Obviously the prices will vary based on location and services rendered, but some workers will help you with your workload for as little as $1-$3 per hour.

    That being said, you get what you pay for. So, while you might not be shelling out big bucks to your VPA, you will have to put up with lost-in-translation issues, foreign holidays, and occasional breakdowns in communication.

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    Pro: The work gets done in your sleep.

    Con: Staying in contact can be tricky.

    It’s really hard to communicate effectively with someone who works three time zones away from you, let alone eight or twelve time zones away. If you’re working with a team of VPAs, this is less of an issue, but it can still take a bit of getting used to.

    All that being said, there’s nothing quite like writing up a to-do list at the end of the day, emailing it off, and coming in the next morning to find everything has been taken care of in your sleep.

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    Pro: Free trial periods are fairly common.

    Con: Fees and quality can vary widely by company/person.

    Services like TimeSvr will offer you a free trial period to assess the quality and fit of their services. That’s great for people who are on the fence about whether they can really benefit from a virtual personal assistant.

    That being said, you need to make sure you’ve budgeted accordingly. For example, ihabilis.com charges a base rate of $10 for five tasks, but charges up to $1,000 for 160 hours of work a month.

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    Pro: Some services offer you an entire team of assistants.

    Con: It’s hard to track who’s accountable for your needs at any given time.

    You basically have two options to consider when selecting what virtual personal assistant is best suited to your individual needs. You can put all your eggs in one basket and throw in with a single assistant, or you can work with a service that puts several people at your disposal, such as GetFriday. You generally have one person who is your “primary”, along with 2 or three other secondary assistants that are available during off-peak hours.

    But while having a team available to you 24 hours a day sounds great, it can be a little confusing knowing who has been assigned to which task in the event that you have last-minute changes to make to your instructions.

    Closing Thoughts

    So, there are a lot of things to consider when selecting a virtual personal assistant. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if this kind of service is worth it. If you would like to do some further reading, you might want to check out some other reviews. For example, the Wall Street Journal has a detailed chart that breaks down the price and features of four popular virtual assistant companies, including GetFriday.com and RedButler.com

    If any of you lovely readers has an opinion about virtual personal assistants, or has a past experience with one of these services that they’d like to share in the comments below, please share with the rest of us! I’m curious to hear what you all think about the perks and pains of virtual assistants.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on August 10, 2020

    13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work

    13 Ways to Be a Great Team Player At Work

    It may sound obvious, but most people prefer to work with those who are team-oriented. A survey found that 79 percent of employers look for this attribute in job candidates.[1]

    The words “team player” are often bandied about (on resumes, in particular). But what does it mean to truly be a team player?

    It means recognizing that when the whole group meets its goals, everyone on the team shines. You, individually, may not be singled out for your contributions, but your team will be praised. Together, you rise.

    Teamwork is required for almost every industry. If you have ever been on a team in high school or college, some attributes of being a team player at the office will come naturally. But whether you’re an athlete or not, great team behavior can be learned.

    Here are 13 ways you can be a true team player at work.

    1. Compete, But Keep the Competition Friendly

    There is nothing wrong with a little intra-team competitiveness. In fact, it can keep everyone on the team sharp. After all, top management has set high benchmarks, and it’s perfectly normal to feel that your team will best all the other teams in the office.

    As your team leaps over interim goals, a little friendly boasting about it keeps everyone on his or her top game. Just don’t let the bragging rights get out of hand. You want your team to win, of course, but at the end of the day, your company wins when all the teams are working well together.

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    2. Develop a Team Mentality

    It’s a cliché to say, “There’s no ‘I’ in the word ‘team.’” But what does it mean? It means that there is no “star system” at the office. You and your teammates need to honestly evaluate each idea and develop the best one, regardless of who on the team suggested the idea.

    It may be humbling, but sometimes, the intern has the best idea. Other times, the boss does. By keeping an open mind and staying title-neutral about the origins of ideas, you and your teammates will learn to sift through ideas, finding the pearl that wins the new piece of business.

    3. Go All In

    Once the team settles on the winning idea, commit your all to it. Sometimes, you will love the idea so much that you wish you had thought of it. Other times, you may secretly think that the team did not rise to the occasion. The best idea may not be chosen, but once the decision is made to get behind an idea, being a team player means that you put your all into executing it with panache.

    Consider how people on creative teams in the advertising or entertainment industries are often called on to execute ideas that weren’t their personal top choice. Particularly if the winning idea was not your favorite, your clients will appreciate your enthusiasm in giving full attention to the idea they selected.

    4. Respect Other People’s Ideas

    There are subtle ways in which we all cut down other people’s ideas. One way is when we dismiss an idea before we thoroughly understand it. Another tactic is to claim that the brainstorming meeting is running long, and you’ll all take up the idea in a future meeting.

    Talking over someone who is explaining an idea you don’t like is another way of showing little respect. You and your ideas will be taken more seriously when you accord respect to other people’s ideas. You don’t have to love the ideas. But it’s only polite to listen to them.

    5. Volunteer Your Time, Energy, and Your Technology

    Treat your team members like family, meaning that you are willing to do whatever it takes for the team’s overall wellbeing. That could mean running out to buy a pizza for a team member who has to work late into the evening or stepping up and take a share of a stressed-out team member’s workload to get through the crunch.

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    If you are the techie on the team, be ready to solve or instruct on any computer glitches to keep productivity at its pinnacle. Think of a medical setting where team members never balk at another member’s request as they work to address a patient’s injury or illness. Their sole focus is on working collectively to increase the chances of a positive outcome for the patient.

    6. Be Transparent About Facts, Figures, and Timelines

    The best team members commit to collaboration over competition. This means freely sharing all information openly so as not to undermine the work or performance of anyone on your team. Together, you cultivate an underlying trust that each will share whatever information he or she receives that will inform and support the team.

    In any customer service role, when multiple team members may be assisting with meeting the needs of a customer, openly briefing others on the situation will improve the response. Customers can perceive when a company they’re doing business with doesn’t have a strong team spirit and will just take their business elsewhere.

    7. Meet Your Deadlines

    Great team players help each other complete work on time. No one wants to be the one who lets down the rest of the team by failing to hit a deadline. Not only does being a team player help make you accountable when performing time-sensitive tasks, but it also helps you adapt to and appreciate others’ work styles.

    A team preparing a market research report will rely on individual team members to provide their separate elements—data analysis, report narrative, layout and graphics, editing, and so on. Keeping everyone on task so that the deadline is met means learning how to honor a timeline, whether you’re someone who paces your work or a last-minute procrastinator.

    8. Take One for the Team

    Every so often, the powers-that-be in the company may ask your team to change direction. Maybe the bosses loved the team’s idea the first time they heard it, but have gathered new intelligence since then. When that’s the case, being a team player means knowing that you may have to work longer hours than you anticipated to see a new idea through.

    Offer to stay late and get in early. Show that you can pivot seamlessly.

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    9. Stay Flexible

    Ideas evolve, but when you are on a winning team, you don’t have to thrash out every single facet of the idea by yourself. You have a whole team to do that. Over time, hopefully, the idea will improve and sharpen. It may encounter a few revisions, but team players know that revisions often improve an idea.

    10. Communicate Continuously

    Good team members can communicate effectively with the group, keeping in mind that effective communication involves active listening.

    Ask questions to clarify anything about which you are unclear. Consult the other members and invite input before coming to any decisions. Also, take time to make sure that others understand what they need to know, making sure not to talk over the heads of other team members with jargon or confusing acronyms.

    For example, if you are the software developer on the team, do your best to communicate technical information to team members who may not be as technically proficient.

    11. Orchestrate Effectively

    Teams have to orchestrate in such a way that they pull all the pieces of their work together simultaneously. This means understanding how all the individual tasks must come together to make a whole.

    Think of the kitchen staff at a high-end restaurant that must ensure the steak is grilled to order, the vegetable side dish is perfectly sautéed, and the baked potato is piping hot—all at the same time. If one member is unable to synchronize with the rest of the team, the result goes from pleasurable to substandard.

    12. Draw on the Team’s Synergy

    Honor the individual skills within the team and how they come together to create a full complement of proficiency. This is an important attitude to have if you want to be a great team player. Understand how this mutual reliance is what makes the sum of your team greater than its parts. Acknowledge and appreciate each other’s contributions toward refining plans, improving the end product, and achieving a common purpose together. Together, you rise.

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    13. Keep Each Other Motivated

    While each team member is responsible for completing his or her part of the larger assignment, working as a team means you don’t have to work in isolation. You have your team members to consult when you encounter any obstacle or prefer not to decide on your own.

    Knowing you can rely on your team to help you and provide support and guidance will keep you motivated to do your best work.

    Final Thoughts

    Teamwork gives employees a sense of connection and a shared purpose, which are key components for creating a culture of engagement at work. A cohesive team that trusts in each member’s abilities allows employees to find joy in their work, and is a sure formula for retaining talented staff.

    That’s why it’s important for you to learn these 13 ways to be a great team player so you can realize your potential and maximize your output at work.

    More Tips on How to Be a Good Team Player

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

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