November 17, 2020 • By The Zirtual Team
Virtual working has become a necessity for millions across the globe, but making the transition is harder than it sounds. Many professionals have never worked from home, much less established a long-term virtual working routine. You may not have a home office or, if you do, it's configured only for homework and the occasional weekend project.
Whether you run a business, a department, or are still bootstrapping your way to the top - virtual working has now become a requirement for future success. The good news is that technology has never been better suited to enable your work from home. In fact, virtual assistants were already rising in popularity before the remote work migration. With this guide, a positive attitude, and possibly the help of a virtual assistant, anyone can make the successful transition to virtual working.
Today, we're diving into the nitty-gritty of virtual working from home. We'll explore everything from establishing a home office to rebuilding your team's virtual workflow.
The first step is to create a space for your virtual work. At home, you will need to establish a home office. All or most of your virtual role will take place at this desk space, so put some real energy into how you design it for long-term comfort and productivity.
Decide where your home office will be. Define the space for your desk, computer, chair, and elbow room. If you need nearby storage, sketch where this will go. Ideally, you will have a spare guest room to convert, but not everybody does. Without a separate room, use a few light decoration tricks to visually distinguish your office space from the living room or kitchen area. Folding screens can provide some visual privacy and mental focus.
Don't underestimate your need for good equipment. The family's home computer may not be up to a high-speed or multi-task workflow. Your personal laptop may or may not be prepared for the workload. Make sure your drive, processor, and monitor are up to the task.
From there, choose an ergonomic keyboard and mouse that you can use all day, every workday, without discomfort. If you need speakers, or a separate web camera, or other nearby equipment, then collect and set these up as well. Sit in your chair to make sure everything is aligned for your comfort and convenience. This will really matter mid-project when you've long forgotten this setup period.
Speaking of comfort, take time to arrange your office. Get a chair that's comfortable and decorate the space to optimize your mental space. If you need to, put up a curtain, place a bookshelf, or even repaint a wall. Make sure the line of sight around your desk makes you feel calm and focused. Remove clutter and bring in large swaths of aesthetic colors.
At the same time, arrange the room for your convenience. Make sure everything is within reach. If you need a footrest or a space heater, get them. If you need a snack drawer, stock it.
For your final touch, make sure you look good on camera. Get a ring-light and place your camera slightly above and behind your monitor for the best angle. Design your backdrop with a curtain, a blank wall, tidy shelf, or shaded window. Eliminate fan noise or get a directional microphone to clean up your audio sound. Your camera is now your presence in the virtual business world, so design your office for broadcasting.
Once your office is ready, begin rebuilding your workflow. You will need to both replicate the virtual tasks once done in the office and virtualize any in-person tasks you took care of on-site. This will likely include a combination of familiar tools and new software discovered for the purpose.
First and foremost, make sure your home office is secure to handle your work credentials and files. Scan and purge viruses and tidy your local file storage. Configure your firewall and password-protect your home network. Use idle time-out, better passwords, and biometric unlock. If you're not a security expert, get in touch with IT to see if any further steps should be taken.
Most of us already use software programs for work, so this will make the transition easier. Install all your work programs on your home computer and mobile devices. Make sure it works and test reconnecting or loading your projects from your home installation.
Now assess everything you normally do in-person. Technology today can simulate or transmit a lot, more than most realize. Consider how you can transition your live workflow into a virtual platform. Find software that can perform or simulate projects normally done offline.
If you lead a team or a platform has not been chosen, unite everyone on a collaborative online platform. There are several options for coworking platforms depending on the workflow you need to share. Most include chat, document sharing, and the ability to share live projects with version control features.
Virtual working tends to be less structured than working from the office - unless you structure your own time. Make use of time management and task processing tools to keep yourself on track. Working from home, you become the primary source of optimization.
Transitioning to virtual work does not come naturally to everyone. Many professionals find themselves reaching for the desk phone or with no real-time to research the best online tools. In many cases, being separated from the office also separates you from office services that made your job possible. Many execs, technicians, managers, and admins just don't have time to handle the clerical or logistic portions of the job while also making the virtual transition and maintaining business output.
The most efficient solution is a virtual assistant, someone who is experienced at the minutia of virtual work so you can get back down to business. A VA can tailor their daily tasks to your needs, just like an executive assistant but without the desk just outside your office. Your virtual assistant can do research, make reports, keep the schedule, handle communication, and even help your team make the virtual transition.
Among the many benefits of a virtual assistant is that they're already experienced virtual professionals. No doubt, yours will be able to offer a few pointers on home office design and the best apps for task & time management.
The next big challenge is rebuilding your team's workflow. Staying coordinated will require both tools and leadership. Become a part of your virtual team by connecting and helping to remotely build that easy teamwork that was once shared in the office.
Define your role in the team before virtual working. Consider who you relied on and who relies on you. Consider your role as a leader, a team member, and a source of work materials as one. Now rebuild that role virtually with the office and tools at-hand. When your team comes together, step naturally back into your role by providing the same performance and collaboration virtually.
Connect with your team while getting set up. Your closeness and the company culture will define whether you tune-in your first video chat during office setup or after your home studio is ready to show your best face. The latest trend in team bonding occurs when an entire office transitions to remote work together, and stay in touch as they set up individual home offices. Share tips and talk about the transition together to build a more natural virtual communication patter before tackling your first virtual project.
As everyone prepares to work, get organized. Define schedules, tasks, and protocols reduce confusion. Regain the decorum of in-office coworkers by establishing an official work communication policy. Schedule your weekly meetings and the platform you'll be meeting on. Define work-only chat channels and how to indicate an urgent message. This will help everyone stay on-task even while rebuilding the team rapport.
The other half of good virtual team cohesion is an open channel. This is the over-the-cubicle chat channel just for off-topic comments. Coworkers need to be able to let off steam, make jokes, and connect outside of official roles. An open channel creates that casual sense of camaraderie. Get involved and connect with your team off-topic. Not only is it fun and social, but an open channel also helped everyone become more casual with online collaboration when back on the clock.
Finally, be prepared for the unexpected schedule shifts. Even in you. Working from home causes natural circadian rhythms to surface. This will seem chaotic at first, but embrace it. Schedules are important, but this is also an opportunity for everyone to work at their best. The first time your night-owl coworker finishes a tough project while everyone sleeps will be a great day. Embrace your own natural schedule as well, whether you're an early morning person, energetic in the afternoon, or a night-owl yourself.
Other things will also split off as each person develops their own virtual workflow. You may be the eternal-cup-of-tea type; you may have a coworker who takes all their notes in an excel spreadsheet. Another colleague may quick-research every casual question. These are the personal methods that make each person great.
If you are making the transition to virtual working, you don't have to do it alone. With the help of a VA, you can relieve some of that workload and gain the perspective of an experienced virtual professional. For more expert insights on working from home or to hire your own virtual assistant, contact us today!