Working from home tips from a VA turned PA

Written by: Ethan Cumming
Published on: 15 Apr 2020

C-suite level Personal Assistant Hollie Dixon recently took the time out of her day to discuss her experience of working as a Virtual Assistant and offer some invaluable advice for working from home.

Hollie Dixon

Having set up her own Virtual Assistant business as a way to make a little extra income before becoming a full-time VA for two years, Hollie was able to share a wealth of working from home tips and advice for the PAs and EAs in our audience currently working from home for the first time due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Hello, Hollie! Could you tell us a bit about your current role?

“I work for global logistics and supply chain management company. I support our CEO and CFO as well as our global Exec team when they need me. My role is so varied and wide ranging, which I love and, like most assistants, no two days are the same. I’m really lucky and fortunate that I get to be involved across all areas of the business and work with people across the world. Our business is very agile and in turn it requires us as team members to be able to adapt.”

You used to work from home as part of your own Virtual Assistant business, could you tell us more about that role and how it came about?

“I wanted to do something that really challenged me. I thought about all the skills that I had and what aspects of my job at the time I liked doing. I set up my own VA business purely as a side hustle, I never imagined it to grow as much as it did. When I first set up my new venture I was still working full time and did so for a year before making the decision to be a full time VA. I was extremely fortunate that all my clients were incredibly fantastic - all of them worked across different industries and I learnt so much from all of them. I worked as a VA for three years, it was extremely hard work but so worth it! It takes persistence but once you get that first client, that feeling of accomplishment is wonderful.”

What kind of challenges did you face transitioning from a remote worker to an office based Assistant?

“I was worried when I went into an office based role that I would feel like I wouldn’t have as much control over my working day after spending 2 years working for myself. There definitely was an initial adjustment period, I probably overstretched myself first and said yes to everything because I was there in person but that is something I have now learnt to deal with. Also, everyone expected me to know everything about the workings of the company and the office immediately so it took me a little time to find my feet - I was definitely winging it for the first few weeks!”

When working from home full-time, how would you stay motivated?

“Routine is key! Get up and get ready as you would if you were heading into an office environment or out for the day. Make sure you have time away from your work, schedule breaks, and get some fresh air. I always finish my day by writing my to-do list for the next day and clearing down my emails. I pack away my work stuff at the end of each day, it is easy to keep working and just do ‘one more thing’ especially in our current situation where there isn’t much else to do! A good playlist always keeps me motivated through the day too.”

Lots of PAs and EAs are worried about their role becoming defunct if they are forced to work from home for an extended period. What advice and reassurance do you have for these professionals?

“Everything is so uncertain currently and the fear of the unknown is awful so first and foremost, make sure you’re looking after yourself and make your own health a priority. Use this time to get done all the annoying jobs you don’t normally have time to do. As PAs and EAs, we have a range of valuable skills, so reach out to other people in your business and see if they need any assistance - be proactive. I’ve set up a weekly workout for our UK team, along with a catch up brew call at the end of the week. There’s loads of things you can do to keep the team motivated and connected, this is really important! Sign up to an online course or learn a new skill, now is a perfect time to do so!”

Strong and healthy relationships with managers and colleagues are essential in the happiness and success of a Personal Assistant. How did you cultivate good working relationships with your bosses and co-workers while working remotely?

“Communication is so important whilst we’re all working remotely, so make sure you have regular recurring meetings set up for those who you work closely with. It is so easy to ping off an email or message but why not video call them instead? It doesn’t have to be a long call but a quick catch up makes all the difference, even if you only discuss the number of snacks you’ve consumed already!”

“We’re all under extra pressure in the current circumstances, so make sure you show your gratitude and appreciation to those who are going above and beyond. Maintain expectations, if you’re not able to get something done, don’t hide away just because it is easier to do so given we’re all working from home. My boss always tells us, a problem never gets better with age. If you know someone is struggling, make sure you reach out to them or, if you’re not able to, put them in contact with someone who can help them.”

“All of these are applicable to maintaining good relationships whilst in an office environment, we just need to adapt them for home working. I’ve found I’ve spoken to more people than I usually would if I were in the office, so now is the perfect time to get to know some of your other colleagues.”

What did you like the most about working remotely?

“I loved the flexibility I had being able to choose what hours I worked and when and being able to pick where you want to work from. You’re also forced to figure things out for yourself, you don’t have a team around you to ask questions and you pick up a lot of new skills. I made friends with lots of other PAs when I was working remotely, because I didn’t have the office environment I got involved in business networks and PA forums.”

Do you have any final tips or advice for the PAs, EAs and other support professionals out there currently working from home for the first time during the Coronavirus pandemic?

“It will take a while to adapt to your new working scenario and, along with the added adjustment of lockdown, you need to give yourself time to settle into your new norm. We’re all going to have days where we aren’t going to be okay and that is totally normal, just make sure you reach out to someone for support! If you’re struggling with your workload or adapting to your new work situation, be honest with your bosses so they can find ways to support you. If you’re working from home with children, find working hours that suit you and your family. Find a routine that works for you. Finally, remember this isn’t forever!”

Thanks, Hollie!