Irma was a nasty girl!
As everyone should know, Irma crawled through Florida and into Georgia this week. Mark & I were without power for 32 hours and are still without internet and probably won’t be up for days… (This is being done on my mobile hotspot. Thank goodness for technology!)
We knew Irma was coming for days. We watched, we planned, we were prepared. And yet, when she arrived, I felt a little overwhelmed and powerless. It has made me think more and more about how our Virtual Assistants feel when they are at the mercy of the elements.
In the Philippines, storms and outages like this are much more common. While we educate our virtual workers on being prepared, having a backup solution, and communicating what is happening, I now know the stress that they feel. Add to it that every hour they work (or don’t work) has a huge impact to their family’s well-being.
I wanted to share with you my thoughts on how you could help your virtual staff member in the event of an outage to help you understand and to make sure that your virtual staff member acts in a manner that helps the situation and not causes further damage to the relationship.
First, have a policy and a plan for your virtual staff member to follow.
I find it always easier to explain my expectations of how to handle an outage before one actually occurs.
Things to discuss are:
When & who to advise of a potential threat?
Some clients like to know even if there is a possibility of an issue, others don’t want to be bothered until there is a loss of power/internet for more than 5 minutes. Letting your virtual staff member know your preference allows for better results and management of the behavior.
Do you prefer your virtual worker to relocate if possible?
If so, when should they relocate? After 30 minutes? A hour? Do you mind your virtual staff member using an internet café?
How to communicate outrages?
Email? Skype? Slack? What is your protocol?
Once the policy is set, then you have to hold your virtual staff member accountable to it. Like any relationship, it is easy to allow little things to build up. Yet, what I have found is little things can quickly become big things if they are not addressed quickly. It is perfectly OK to have a frank conversation with your virtual staff to clear the air. However, if you are uncomfortable doing it directly, feel free to reach out to me or Neil and we will happily address it for you. The main goal is to be consistent.
I will share with you that one of my earlier virtual staff members violated an important rule. The first time came with a warning and a small penalty and the second time she was released from service. I had a 1 warning rule for that specific mistake and so as much as it pained me, I felt I needed my yes to be yes and my no be no. I knew that if I didn’t, I wasn’t being the leader I needed to be for my other staff members. It wasn’t “convenient” for me to let her go, but I earned the respect of my other workers (inside staff and virtual staff) because I was consistent in the policy. (If you are interested in knowing about the specifics of this incident – reply and I will be happy to share.)
Understand that in 99.999% of cases, your virtual worker wants to keep their job and please you. Yet, they aren’t sure what to do. They are embarrassed to tell you they are having an issue. They really need this job. It is vital to their family and yet their culture is very different. It isn’t that they want to hide it from you, but they are afraid & worried so they don’t speak up. Having a set protocol helps them know that you are OK with the occasional outage.
Now, if your virtual worker has more than 1 extended outage a quarter, then we need to know and need to help with a better solution.
What I learned through Irma and going through an outage myself is that it is very stressful. No amount of preparation can fully equip you to give your job your best, and that communication is key to getting through with the least amount of impact.
This was the best thing that I can see that came out of Irma. Stay safe!
To your success!
P.S. I am always here for you. If you are ever having an issue and want to chat about it, feel free to book a call with me.