Why your business may benefit from being a bit more virtual

The world is changing before our very eyes! That sounds quite Hollywood doesn’t it, but really it’s nothing new we change and evolve every day without even blinking an eye, and it’s not until we look back and reflect that we see just how far we’ve come.

Did you know; anyone can order you train tickets and you can pick them up using any card, even your Tesco Clubcard – all you need is the booking reference. EVERYTHING can be done virtually.

Once busy industrial estates where men and women would arrive on masse before most of us had even finished breakfast and many of the countries essential and necessities would be developed, packaged, designed and exported now looks more like a scene out of Call of Duty.

Buildings the size of small housing estates now provide nothing more than target practice for bored kids from local estates armed with stones.

And let’s not forget our town centres, where once we’d peer through windows admiring displays of the latest trends, envying the mannequin with her slender figure adorning that outfit you’re going to buy on payday or spending hours in a bookshop picking your holiday reads.

The world of work has definitely changed, dramatically, and continues to. Look back over just a few decades and see how your own town has changed. I’m from Swindon, the railway town. I was born in 1977 and remember the sound of the hooter from the Swindon Railway Works every weekday morning telling the workers to get to work, again at lunchtime and later in the afternoon to let them know they could go home. I also remember standing on our driveway when the hooter blew for the last time at 4.30pm on 26 March 1986.

Swindon Railway Hooter Timetable

The Swindon Railway Works stood empty for many years but now houses a bustling designer outlet village, but that’s a rare success story and I do negatively wonder whether the building may one day stand empty again as the internet takes over our shopping habits.

We’ve evolved, but nostalgia holds us back sometimes and we often reflect and long for those rose tinted ‘better days’. Many campaign for local councils to ‘do something about the High Street‘, but are they shouting into an empty room? Haven’t those days just simply gone?

I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t have something from this new virtual world we live in, in their home.

Whether they’ve put it there, or a relative bought it as a gift, or a contractor installed it. There’s something in everyone’s home that’s been obtained virtually somehow. Even my 98 year old Grampy does his shopping online! A man needs his custard cremes.

But technology has already replaced so many people. Every time I see a news story about a fantastic new invention that will speed up the production time in a factory I shout at the tv ‘what about the workers’? Am I just getting to be a grumpy old git? I don’t get it? Unless everyone trains as someone who has a knack for identifying that unexpected item in the bagging area what are we going to do? How on earth can we evolve and take on the technology? Just last week I popped to one of my town’s Post Offices and found three human manned tills gone and three do it yourself points in their place.

I think we can all agree that technology isn’t going anywhere fast, and currently, no one has come up with a way to make humans robotic, although watching people walk down the street looking at their mobiles one would wonder, so the only thing to do is to change how we work.

I’m Catherine and I started my own Virtual Assistant business in 2016 and I sometimes work from my phone in bed!

I absolutely loved my career as a secretary, PA and admin manager, but also started to get quite bored as the workload reduced over the years as technology took over – i.e. fewer letters to write because of ease of email, fewer meetings and travel to arrange because of Skype, fewer minutes to take because of recording software, fewer managers to look after as everyone became computer literate, etc.

It was time for me to take on the technology. Departments no longer need a pool of administrators and a PA, we can do so much from anywhere on any device these days that managers and directors don’t need someone to do the admin. Answering an email while wolfing down breakfast rarely seems like work, does it?

Just recently, there’s talk of whether employees should start claiming their working hours from the moment they start browsing through their emails? Smartphones, tablets and the sheer ease of access to just about everything means we can work from anywhere (except a train it seems as they’ve still not quite mastered reliable wifi).

I’m on holiday at the moment and swore to myself I would delete my email app and not check them, but despite this bold brave declaration, I didn’t. I couldn’t, well I could if I chose to I guess. But that’s the thing, where is the line these days between work and play?

Everything and I mean everything, can virtually be done virtually, except making the tea but I am an only child so tea making for others isn’t something I have ever really enjoyed.

That’s why my virtual business has gone from strength to strength it’s also a superbly cost and time effective way of working.

If I have a meeting with a new client I rarely go and meet them. I choose Zoom or Skype. It’s free, there’s no travel, no stress and there’s no wasted time. You really can’t talk about nonsense on a Zoom call, it’s just business.

I rarely speak to my clients on the phone once that initial relationship has developed, everything is done by email, removing again the need for unrelated conversation if the client doesn’t have time.

I use a time recording system called Toggl that goes on and off as I start and finish a task for a client, so they only pay me for the time spent completing it. They’re not paying me to comment on Dave having not changed his socks once this week despite going to the gym every day, they’re not paying me to kick off everytime the office gets too hot or to stare lovingly at the post-it notes and pens in the stationery cupboard for far too long. They’re paying for what they need doing.

Working virtually as often as possible keeps expenses down for small business and avoids wasting precious time

It’s unlikely we’re going to go back as we now rely on technology so much to make our lives easier, which is why the virtual working world is growing. What can you make virtual? How much time and money will you save by doing so?