My journey into the world of ‘work-at-home’

My name is Russell and I’ve been working at home for about a year now. It all started when I was in between jobs and already looking online into work from home options. Fortunately, in the summer of 2016, a good friend of mine offered to refer me to the company he is already affiliated with, Summit VA Solutions. Just like me, he left the corporate world to pursue other options. And so, after submitting my requirements, my training started shortly thereafter. Thus my journey into the world of ‘work-at-home’ began and, just like my good friend, I’ve been affiliated with Summit VA Solutions since then.

Many people think that they also want to work at home due to the things that it can offer that working in an office can’t, like: having more free time, less stress, convenience, and so on. I had the same reasons for shifting from my previous job as a trainer in the BPO industry to working at home. However, since the time that I’ve been working at home, I’ve come to realize some pros and cons to consider when one is thinking about shifting from an office environment to a work-at-home environment.

Time

This was the main reason why I wanted to work at home, and yes, I have more time on my hands now to do the things I need to do like getting groceries, doing chores, and transacting with banks, government offices, cable and internet providers, Telecom companies, etc, ALL of which are open during ‘business hours,’ the same business hours in which you are also working and therefore have no time to go to them. Except for the grocery stores, they also almost always have the same rest days and holidays as you do which makes you practically unable to do the transactions you need to do unless you go absent from work during a regular work day. Working at home however gives you more time since that one or more hour that is usually allotted for preparations and travel time to and from work is practically eliminated. That extra hour a day gives you an extra 5 hours in a 5-day work week and 21 hours in a month with 21 working days. After a year, well, you get the picture. Think about how much you can do with those extra hours.

On the other hand, unlike in the corporate world, your time is not as structured. In an office setting, time slots are usually already allotted by others for you for meetings, trainings, conference calls, coaching sessions, calibrations and the like; while for workers at home however, it is usually not the case. This means that you need to manage not just your own time but usually your client’s as well. For those used to having others manage their own time, the adjustment to you having to manage everyone’s time, including your own, for the tasks at hand can feel overwhelming at first. Fortunately, time management is a skill, and just like any skill, the more you keep at it, the better you will get.

Independence/Freedom/Mobility

This is another reason why I wanted to work at home. Unlike in an office where one is required to be there during working hours, I can practically work anywhere I want to, provided of course that I have a capable laptop/computer and a dependable internet connection (capable of supporting video calls over a chat client, usually Skype). Thus, I’ve mostly been working in my home in Baguio, the city I live in, and sometimes in Manila, usually when there are family gatherings.

This, however, is a double-edged sword. While in the office, everything you need to do your job is provided for you by the company, working at home means you almost always have to provide for yourself. A company will provide you with a computer, internet connection, IT Support, a clinic, a pantry where you can just buy ready-cooked meals, an HMO and other employee benefits, and an HR department to answer whatever employee questions, concerns of disputes you may have. Furthermore, companies are more structured when it comes to job scope, processes, performance metrics and career pathing. And usually, the bigger the company, the better they are at these things.

You have little, if any, of these when you’re working at home. It is much like running your own business. This means you provide for your own computer, internet connection, HMO, and do your own troubleshooting and problem solving (for IT related concerns in particular and other employee concerns in general). You also need to cook your own meals if you weren’t able to go out and buy some prior to starting your shift or don’t have anyone to cook for you. This requires preparation in advance. And in an office, if you need to talk to someone, you can just walk over to them since both of you are within the same premises. For workers at home, unless one prefers having virtual friends and eating lunches alone, it can sometimes get lonely.

I was fortunate enough to be with Summit VA Solutions. Though it doesn’t have a specialized HR department, the management provided me with support for all the questions and concerns I’ve had since I started and they continue to do so until now. They even provided me with very competent training that gave me the knowledge and preparation I needed to prepare myself for this new role. And even if we (currently) are not provided with an HMO, the pay is good enough for me to provide for myself if need be. In fact, I can also provide for my other equipment and service needs necessary for my job as well. Also, being a highly independent person, I actually prefer to do my own troubleshooting and problem solving. I also get to learn new things in doing so. Regarding friends and co-workers, the nice thing about being in a job with high mobility potential is we can always choose to meet up whenever we want to. We can even choose to work in the same place should we need or choose to do so. And as for a career, I think I’ve said goodbye to having one. I can now think of whether or not I can put up my own micro-business in the not too distant future instead.

The Client – VA Relationship

Different people will always have differences. Speaking only for myself, ideally, IMHO, the primary requirement for a successful Client – VA relationship is compatibility. Which is why I consider the interview process to be important; because it is where one can initially determine if some compatibility between the prospecting client and VA exists despite their differences. Secondary to this are clarity and consistency. If the client and the VA are fundamentally incompatible, or there is a lack of clarity or consistency from either parties, then the relationship won’t work out in the long run. In reality though, if a client finds a VA (or vice versa) that they are completely compatible with, then they’re lucky. It is also a good thing that the secondary requirements are skills, and like I’ve said before, the more one keeps at them, the better one will get (whether they be the client or the VA).

In Summary

I do not consider myself a “great” Virtual Assistant. What I do strive for however is excellence in whatever I do. I also love to learn new things and try to improve on how to do ‘old things.’ Being a Virtual Assistant is not for everyone. It requires the ability to be highly independent which also means being responsible and accountable for oneself. And even then, finding the right company or client to work with can take some time and some luck. At the end of the day, I just consider myself really lucky to be part of Summit VA Solutions on my first attempt at working at home.

Russell Lansang - Summit Virtual Assistant

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