Boundaries are very important when working with a Virtual Assistant (or one of our Client Managers). Why? It eliminates frustrations, and creates a healthy working relationship. You have to be sure that everyone around you (including you!) protects those boundaries, so that you can serve your clients, and do what needs to be done within the deadlines. We understand that your time is precious and you want to maximise it.
Boundaries go both ways… and it is important to understand, whether you are working with us or with a part-time virtual assistant through another organisation, that your support person is working with multiple clients. To be able to manage the workload within the deadlines, your assistant would be blocking time in their diary for your work tasks as well as for other client work. Often VA’s diary looks something like this:
Working with multiple clients often comes with its own complexities, and while tasks that your assistant does comes more natural to them, managing client expectations, deadlines, personalities, industries, working and communication styles, is key to any client relationship. And this is why understanding your support person’s boundaries helps in fostering a good and healthy working relationship.
To help with boundaries, here are some suggest questions and guidelines:
1. Working Hours
Share your general working hours, and if there are times you definitely don’t work, share them too. Ask your Virtual Assistant (or in our case, your Client Manager) what their working hours are, and are their days or times that they definitely don’t work.
As an example, we have a client who blocks time in their diary between 3:00pm and 4:30pm for family time, and another client who does not want appointments after 4:30pm on a Friday. Within our team, some start at 9:00am, others start at 12:30pm, and their schedules have been set to align with client needs as well as their own personal needs.
Discuss what is considered an emergency and ask how this is handled in relation to support. In most cases, we consider travel issues an emergency, as well as anything that may impact the health of you or your loved ones. However, if you message your support person after hours about something that could be dealt with when they’re working next, then that is not an emergency.
3. Working and Communication Style
Do you like to have weekly calls? Or prefer to delegate via email? How does your assistant like to receive work requests? Does she only answer emails at certain times of the day? If using WhatsApp as a communication tool (it is a very popular method of communication here in Hong Kong) what is the response time?
As an example, one of our clients spends half a day, every Saturday to work on her business, and she will delegate work during this time. She is not expecting her Client Manager to respond to any of her emails over the weekend, however, she does like an acknowledgement on Monday. Another of our clients likes to have a call every week, on a Monday and even if the call is for 15 minutes, it is her time to touch base on what is happening that week and what support she may need.
4. Turnaround Times
While in a perfect world, turnaround times are within 24 hours, realistically, that is not always possible as it really does depend on workload, number of clients, projects etc. However, in terms of boundaries, you can discuss with your assistant how best to communicate due dates, and she can agree to give feedback within a certain time frame. Also it is important to ask if there is a RUSH fee?
5. Leave / Weekends / Public Holidays
It is also good to discuss the process around these. Within Bauhinia, we like to update clients as soon as possible if their Client Manager is taking annual leave, and then we let them know who will be looking after them while their Client Manager is on leave. We often ask, especially around major holidays, if clients are taking leave and will they be delegating work while their away. Knowing this allows us to plan our time as well. With regards to public holidays, generally our office is closed on those days.
As an example, many of our clients take time off over Christmas and New Year, and with 50% of our clients not working, the level of support needs decreases. This is the perfect time for some of the team to take leave, especially if they have children who are also on holidays.
While it can seem intimidating to set boundaries, and sometimes in the rush of everyday business, these can slip, it is still very important to have a thorough discussion around boundaries for yourself and for your assistant.
If you’d like to explore how a Virtual Assistant could support you with your business, please schedule a time with me to discuss how we can support you. Before talking with me, you may want to explore our services and read up on our team. We are open to accepting new clients.