EA to a manager 1,000 miles away

Whether you’re a permanent virtual PA or your boss is just partial to an overseas trip or ten, Tim Stackpool shares the top tools for EAs working with a remote boss.

When the power of the internet was first realised, brand new adaptations of traditional roles began to challenge the status quo. Office work, data entry, transcription services, word processing and desktop publishing could now be undertaken by contractors anywhere in the world. Out of this realm also rose the casual virtual PA, where unseen help in a remote country would take calls, receive and respond to email, book appointments and manage travel.
While still available today, it’s now more of a niche opportunity for unique managers, as delegating at a distance and issues of confidentially all present significant challenges for a casual virtual assistant.
But, out of this corner of the shiny new world wide web came the need to develop better communication tools, exploiting the need to share and track micro-projects, while making the entire experience appear transparent.
Today, full-time PAs can work thousands of miles away from their manager and, while this may not be the most desired of working relationships, in some cases it’s unavoidable. But online technology makes a world of difference and some applications can easily be adapted to the role of the regular PA. So, let’s take a look at what’s out there:

Collaboration
The ability to collaborate is paramount and being able to share a single Word document, for example, without multiple versions flying around, is essential.
– Google Drive is one online service with a built-in word processor, spreadsheet, and a presentation tool, which can be viewed and edited by multiple users at once. Any changed can be tracked, and changes by individuals can also be identified. This makes remote proofreading and approving files easier.
– Microsoft Office 365 and Zoho Docs include similar features

Diary management
Calendar sharing assists with remotely making and keeping appointments.
– Microsoft Office is one of the most popular, generally due to the ubiquitous use of MS Office across business.
– Google Calendar is also worth considering as one account can be broken-up across multiple calendars, meaning a social calendar can be separated from a business-hours calendar.
– Teamup is another alternative shared online calendar application for groups. It claims to simplify what it takes to get organised and keeps everyone up-to-date. And a bonus for certain users could be that Teamup can sync with both Outlook and Google calendars itself.

Call Management
Being able to economically takes calls across vast distances is satisfied by a multitude of phone plans and apps.
– Facetime (for Apple users only) is perfect for keeping in touch, either via video or audio
– Messenger, originally from Facebook, now stands alone as a separate app, and can be used to make Internet phone or video calls, like Facetime.
– Whatsapp works similarly, adding end-to-end encryption into the latest version of the app. When end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp messages and calls are secured so only you and the person you’re communicating with can read or listen – no-one else can, not even Whatsapp.
– Skype is a traditional favourite, but adds more functionality (for a fee). Users can make calls to real telephone numbers – a great advantage if you’re calling a non-Skype user. You can also register a real telephone number with Skype, so non-Skypers can call a local number, which you pick up within Skype.

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