Maria Fuller lists the pros and cons of working virtually

If someone had asked me 20 years ago if assistants could provide executive support whilst working at home, I would have laughed or explained all the reasons why we need to be in the corporate office.  Yet today, technology provides me with all the solutions I need to operate from my home office.

I am connected to the rest of the world via the internet.  I can hold a conference bridge or share documents in real time with my colleagues – globally. I’m able to amend my manager’s diary, even though he is currently in Cairo on business, and he will see the changes within seconds.  I can upload completed documents onto the corporate cloud system, for others to view and download, whenever they need them.  I regularly book travel for colleagues, via the online portal, and my travellers receive their travel reservations direct to their smartphones.  Technology allows me to be an assistant wherever I am.

I do not need to be in a corporate office.  And neither do you.

For some, working from home may sound extremely attractive, and perhaps it’s your goal to secure a new role with ‘working from home’ opportunities.  But there are always two sides to a coin, and I’d like to share with you some of the realities of ‘working from home’ as an assistant.

You don’t get to see your manager very often

Potentially this is a blessing, rather than a curse, but for most of us, it’s very important to have regular contact with our line manager.  As an assistant, communication is key. To lose the face-to-face element of this, you must adopt other techniques to keep that partnership strong.  WhatsApp, Text, Email, Skype, GoToMeeting – there are plenty of solutions out there to keep the ‘virtual’ relationship real.

Your colleagues are remote too

Perhaps you won’t miss that annoying person from business development who used to drop by at your desk constantly, or the colleague who sat opposite you who thought you were their personal IT consultant.  But you will miss the flow of information which was readily available in the workplace.  Chatting to colleagues in the kitchen, lift or atrium, often unearths a nugget of information which you wouldn’t have been privy to otherwise – such as system changes, a new employee starting or a department restructure.

Keep the comms channels open when you’re remote, take time to chat more than usual on the phone, and you won’t miss too much.

Your commute is a thing of the past

Hooray! Think of saving all that lovely money you previously spent commuting to the office five days a week.  Goodbye tube, subway, or rail journey!  No more train cancellations, fighting for a seat, feeling stressed before you get to work, or being drenched in rainstorms.  Your commute is now less than one minute, at zero expense and you don’t get wet, cold, or sneezed upon by a stranger.

You can watch the box set of that latest Scandi crime thriller

NO, YOU CANNOT.  Never, ever, ever!  Working from home is NOT an opportunity to skive, down tools when you feel like it, or put in fewer hours than your office-based colleagues.  Distractions are to be avoided.  Your friends are to be discouraged from dropping by; your Mum cannot pop round and have coffee and you definitely should not be sloping off to spend more hours in the gym or taking extended lunch breaks.  The trust works both ways, so don’t abuse it.

Ultimately, it’s not for everyone.  It can feel isolating and, if you are a very sociable person, it might not be for you.  But after five years of working from home for most of the week, I cannot imagine things differently.  My time is spent more effectively.  I no longer have interruptions from colleagues asking me to help them with the printer or fix their Excel glitches.  I honestly feel that I am more productive at home, and I appreciate the quieter environment to think in.

Maria Fuller is a CEO-level, UK-based Executive Assistant with 30 years of business administration experience. With a corporate background in technology, banking, legal services, private equity, and telecommunications, Maria has supported CEOs in startups ... (Read More)

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