Hiring Freeze? Remote Executive Assistants Cost-Effectively Increase Executive Productivity

Updated: 20 Sep, 2022 | Bill Peatman

When you can’t hire new employees, the work you wanted them to do still needs to be done.

That’s why companies large and small have turned to remote executive assistants, AKA offshore virtual assistants, to simultaneously reduce costs and increase executive productivity.

The virtual assistant market grew by 41 percent in 2020, according to NanoGlobals. During the height of the pandemic as businesses went all-remote, many realized that hiring remote executive assistants on a fractional basis could be a cost-effective way to reduce labor costs and free executives to spend more time on revenue-generating work.

“Companies stand to save significantly through the use of offsite or offshore outsourcing of admin and assistant tasks,” the study said. “The average company can save more than 50 percent on costs by staffing offshore, with admin and non-technical task work offering one of the largest cost savings.”

Yet, the study also found that “In spite of the savings, it’s common for US companies to hire full-time staff for basic admin and assistant work for a variety of reasons ranging from tradition to negative views of globalization to lack of technical ability to manage remote team members.”

Burnout from Overwork on Busywork

Asana’s 2022 Anatomy of Global Work Index found employees spend 58 percent of their time on “work about work” --tasks that do not require employees’ levels of skill and training. "Managers, and workers at medium and large companies, suffer disproportionately from work about work,” researchers said.

Yerbo’s Burnout Index surveyed over 32,000 workers and discovered that 62 percent feel physically and emotionally drained. A Deloitte survey found that 69 percent of C-suite executives said they were “seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.” That was before recession fears slowed hiring and caused layoffs in some sectors. “Layoffs are happening as firms tighten their belts ahead of the recession,” Yerbo said. “And for those left behind at work, there are the additional burdens of bigger workloads and handling the burnout that causes.”

Offload Administrative Tasks

Paying executives to do administrative tasks does not make sense. If you can hire a part-time remote assistant to take on the 58 percent of a worker’s time spent on busy work to give them more time for their core responsibilities, you can reduce costs, increase productivity, and preserve executives’ mental well-being.

Where does the time go? According to Asansa, compared to 2021:

  • 42 percent of employees are spending more time on email
  • 40 percent are spending more time on video calls
  • 52 percent are multitasking more during virtual meetings
  • 56 percent feel they need to respond immediately to notifications

Survey respondents noted the ways switching between apps tanked their productivity, with 19 percent reporting reduced attention to tasks and 17 percent admitting they worked longer hours because of it. Overall, 21 percent of respondents agreed that moving between apps had made them less efficient at their job.

Starting and stopping tasks and apps is a major time killer. It is called “switching time,” and it takes about 25 minutes to refocus with each switch. "Frequently switching between tasks overloads the brain and makes you less efficient," said Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder, and chief director of the Center for Brain Health. "It is a formula for failure in which your thoughts remain on the surface level, and errors occur more frequently."

What Can Remote Executive Assistants Do?

Asana defines “work about work” as “searching for information, switching between apps, managing shifting priorities, and chasing status updates.” Most of these tasks are easily delegated to a trained remote assistant to give executives more time to move businesses forward at a far lower cost than a full-time on-site assistant or hiring more executives. Common tasks companies delegate to virtual assistants include:

  • Calendar management—scheduling meetings, sending confirmations, following up on action items.
  • Email organization—sorting emails by priority, responding to routine questions.
  • Travel and expenses—researching travel options in advance, filing expense reports.
  • File management—finding and storing information.
  • Research—finding sales leads, partnership opportunities, building lists.
  • CRM management—entering and updating contact information.

How to Find Reliable Virtual Assistants

Saying that virtual assistants can take workloads off executives’ plates can be easier said than done. You still must recruit, vet, hire, and train someone. Hiring, onboarding, and managing virtual assistants at scale can be a full-time job. It takes 30 days to hire an executive assistant, and 120 days to onboard one, according to C-Suite Assistants.

As NanoGlobals pointed out, few businesses have the expertise to manage offshore workers.

That’s why more businesses are turning to managed virtual assistant services as a flexible, affordable alternative to hiring individual freelancers or independent contractors. Managed virtual assistant service providers hire, train, and supervise remote executive assistants so you don’t have to. The service provider onboards the assistants on your tools and systems, and trains them on your best practices for task management. And the service provider also trains backup assistants for continuity if your primary assistant is absent or leaves. You have none of the costs or risks associated with hiring a full-time employee.

Get More Done with Less

Talk to any CFO or COO, and they will always tell you that now is the time to get more done with fewer resources. During boom times, you are struggling to keep up with growth, and workloads increase. In uncertain or down economies, you reduce spending and hiring and force employees to pick up the slack. Either of these scenarios can work for a while, but eventually, people will burn out or work quality will suffer. Remote executive assistants offer a cost-effective way out of this cycle.

Want to learn more? Check out the article “How Enterprises are Outsourcing Executive Assistants in 2022.

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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