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 your business 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 their workload, 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 the work that the do, comes more naturally to them, the key to any client relationship is managing their expectations, deadlines, personalities, industries, working and communication styles. This is why understanding your support person’s boundaries helps to foster a good and healthy working relationship.
To help with understanding the boundaries, here are some suggest questions and guidelines:
1. Working Hours
Share your 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 whether there are 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. At Bauhinia, some team members start at 9:00am, while others start at 12:00pm. Each member’s schedule is different based on their 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 and website 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 a change in a document that can be dealt with when they’re working next, then they’ll deal with it the next working day.
3. Working and Communication Style
Do you like to have weekly calls? Or prefer to delegate via email? Do you sit down and go through emails when the kids are in bed? Or are you someone who delegates on the fly? Sharing this information with your assistant will allow her to understand how she works with you. It is also good to understand how your assistant likes to receive work requests? And whether she answers emails at certain times of the day? Another thing to consider if you’re using WhatsApp as a communication tool, what is the response time?
At Bauhinia we try to adapt to your working style, particularly if like to have frequent calls verses purely email communication. We also send ‘End of Week Updates’ and this is a great way for you to catch up on where you are with your support hours, and reconsider your priorities based on your remaining hours.
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, other deadlines etc. For us, our clients work with us on a part-time basis, most between 10 and 20 hours per month, so 48 hours is more practical. 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. It is always helpful to know if you have a deadline for a task because that allows your support person to schedule the work so she can meet your expected time frame.
It is also important to ask if there is a RUSH fee? Some companies charge this, at this point in time we do not have such a charge.
5. Leave / Weekends / Public Holidays
At Bauhinia, we work a standard working week, Monday to Friday, and we adhere to Hong Kong Public Holidays, therefore our office is closed on those day. With the office closed, it means our team are not checking emails – yours or theirs. Other companies and independent Virtual Assistants work differently, so it is always good to ask.
It is also good to discuss the process around annual leave. 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 they’re away. Knowing this allows us to plan our time as well.
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’re overwhelmed, struggling to get things done, or recognise you need some assistance, organise a call with me to discuss your business support needs.