Updated: May 27, 2019
There's a line you physically cross everyday when you step into your office. It’s the line you step over when you walk in the door. The moment your home life and emotions and whatever else is checked and you’re in work mode. It’s when you become political and respectful and the best version of yourself for the people you work with (or for). This line disintegrates when you work with a team member remotely or you, yourself work remotely.
Something happens when you have a virtual working relationship - it’s easier to get off the phone and yell, curse, make faces, roll your eyes, etc if someone royally ticks you off (don’t even pretend like you haven’t been there) and then turn around and get sh*t done. When you work in an office, you bottle all those emotions up and deal with them at the end of the day, or you know, take them out on the ones you love most. So how do you find the line that just up and disappeared like all the money in your bank account during college? You set boundaries. A code of conduct, if you will, just like you have when you’re face to face with someone.
Here are a few tips to help:
Sounds like a given, right? You’d be surprised how easy it is to treat someone you’ve never met more like a computer than a human being. Be mindful that this is a relationship and relationships take work. Show respect in your tone, your emails, etc. If you have moments where you need to be curt, let your VA know (during onboarding preferably) that sometimes you will be busy or in high stress situations and it’s nothing against them. This will save you when you have to shoot off a short, to the point, almost rude text or email that is super urgent. Trust me, your VA will respond positively to respect and up-front expectations.
Don’t find the line by pushing boundaries.
This is a big one. If you’re on a monthly retainer with your VA, don’t wait until the last week to use all kajillion of your hours. This will not only stress your VA out, you will be setting them up to make mistakes because they’ll want to get everything done for you. And don’t wait until 30 minutes before quittin’ time to request 2 hours of urgent tasks to be done ‘before they sign off.’ This goes back to #1, Show Respect. If you find a good VA, they’ll bend the rules and make sure everything you need is done because they for-real care about you and because they are conscientious -- but try not to make it a habit. Nine times out of ten though, you either won’t get a response at all or you’ll get the standard, politically correct ‘sorry, but no’ when in reality you’ve just caused your VA to go into an organizational shock and yell F YOU to their computer screen. Nobody wants that.
This goes SO FAR. Even if you do send your VA into organizational shock (that moment where extremely organized people are thrown into a state of chaos and flail around like a fish out of water until they get everything back into a nice, neat, prioritized, color coded list), appreciation can smooth everything over and solidify the success of your working relationship. When people feel appreciated, they’ll go the extra mile because they know what they are doing makes a difference, it matters, and it’s noticed. It’s a very small price for a business-changing asset.
I’d love to hear about your experiences setting boundaries with VAs or vice versa - comment below!
Miss Part 2, Putting the Leg(work) in Delegation? Check it out here.