How to Get More Done at Work with Digital Assistants

“Siri, how many tablespoons are in a cup?”

“Alexa, what’s the weather forecast for tomorrow?”

You probably use digital assistants to help you cook dinner at night and plan your clothes for the next day. But are you taking advantage of the same technology to get more done during your work day? And do you know the etiquette of working with digital assistants?

We asked Robby Slaughter, productivity expert and principal at AccelaWork, a business consulting firm, what we all need to know about using digital assistants to get more done at work.

Know Your Options

There’s a whole new world of productivity tech on the market. Siri, OK Google and Cortana can help you make phone calls, set reminders or schedule appointments, and that’s a simple way to be more efficient, Slaughter says. “It’s faster to say ‘Siri, call Bob Smith on mobile on speaker’ than it is to unlock your phone, go to the contact records, and dig out his information.” But there are more powerful options as well.

Start looking at more impressive tools such as or Clara Labs, which are AI assistants that can schedule appointments with other people simply by copying them on an email, Slaughter says. “And if you really want to see AI at work, try something like Fin. This is a completely independent assistant that you can ask to do anything. Whatever the AI can’t figure out, humans behind the scenes can guide.”

Be Patient and Careful

As with any tool, there’s going to be a learning curve. “First, be patient,” Slaughter says. “This is an emerging technology that we are all struggling to understand. Just like other tools, it won’t always work.” As enhancements are pushed to market, Slaughter says that gives people an opportunity to “screw up with more calamity.” “Email is faster than postal mail, but we are much more likely to forget an attachment or make a typo,” he says. “Saying ‘OK Google, call Micah Bryan’ might end up ringing your ex-husband, Mike O’Brien. That’s a mistake you’d never make yourself.”

It’s also important to be transparent with other humans about what you’re using. “Instead of saying ‘My secretary, Adam, will schedule our appointment,’ type ‘I have an AI robot that I’m trying out for scheduling appointments,’” he recommends. “Your honesty will smooth most any problem you may have.”

Keep in mind that anything that attempts to look human is often going to be interpreted as human, Slaughter says, and that can lead to misunderstandings. “We were all annoyed when we first realized the signature on the form letter wasn’t authentic, and many of us will react when we discover we are talking to a machine,” he says. And just because it’s an AI-based platform doesn’t mean you can ignore security and privacy — follow the same rules you would when dealing with humans. “Don’t give a tool power to do something you wouldn’t normally do, like make a payment to literally anyone who asks.”

Keep an Eye Toward the Future

Slaughter says he expects AI tools to begin sharing their data and to become more powerful. “Right now these systems are mostly independent neural networks with their own training data,” he says. “But in the future, we’ll see centralized repositories as AI becomes a service, just like software, infrastructure, storage, and physical inventory space became a service.” Developers will be able to rent datacenters and hardware to run neural networks, making technology and the data behind it even more powerful.

The changes these advances can bring to the workplace will also change the way we work, so use the time you save wisely. “Productivity improvements make some work obsolete,” Slaughter says. “What are you doing now that a computer will be able to do for you? And if it is [doing it for you], what are you doing instead?”

Virtual Assistant Industry is Expanding: Are You Open To It?

The internet has given rise to plenty of jobs with its ability to connect workers from all over the world with employers located just about anywhere. Hence, it is not a surprise that organizations from all over the world are now looking to employ people who would be able to work remotely and be able to stay in touch online with simple and fast online meeting tools that make working remotely a cinch. The number of such workers has increased exponentially over the last half of a decade or so as more and more talented individuals have noticed that the rewards for working as a virtual assistant are considerable. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider a career in this field:

  1. Working Independently

Everyone wants to work in an environment in which he is himself the master of his own time. When you work as a virtual assistant, it is possible to achieve this goal. In this position, you have the ability to be employed by more than one company, working as a contractor on a variety of tasks depending on your skills and ability to manage your time. The days when the virtual assistant was only supposed to fill up spread sheets with data are long gone. Nowadays, a virtual assistant can work in a variety of fields including content creation, internet marketing, and accounting or even social media management. The freedom to choose from amongst a large variety of tasks is indeed a huge incentive for any professional; in addition, the freedom to change employers without any hassles whatsoever is another large advantage.

  1. Potential for Growth

Every employee wants to know what their growth potential is at any given company. In this regard, it must be said that the career of a virtual assistant offers excellent long-term growth opportunities both financially and professionally. According to market research agencies, the virtual assistant industry is set to grow rapidly in the next few years and the projected valuation of the industry in five years’ time is approximately $5 billion dollars. It is a huge industry that is going to explode in the next few years and now is the time to get into it so that you can reap the benefits that are to come.  Additionally, if you are employed by several companies and if the volume of work continues to increase, you may also have the ability to hire people in order to start your own virtual assistance company, furthering your success in the industry as a whole.

  1. Using the Best Tools to Work With

Working remotely and online gives independent contractors access to some of the best tools available in the industry today. This helps to improve the entire experience of the employee, but also helps him to build his skills, making him more valuable overall. Let’s take example of few tools available for this purpose:

UberConferenceIt is a powerful and advanced cloud-based conferencing system. This web conferencing tool include features like online data management, shared calendar programs, shared files, and the ability to stay in contact no matter the distance between the employee and employer. It is built on WebRTC in order to allow real-time call control, across a variety of carriers on one side and the browsers on the other side.

BasecampIt is popular web based project management tools. Easy to use, this tool provides 60 days free trials. This tool helps us to manage, store, and share files. You can use it for task management and time tracking.

DropboxThis popular tool is used in day to day virtual assistant business. This excellent cloud storage solution provides instant file synchronization. When you hire your VA, you can sync a folder or file from your computer and share it with your VA. This free app makes file sharing and work collaboration quite easy.

Tiny TakeThis tool is extensively used for taking screen shots, capture webcam videos and capture videos. It is free and easy to use tool.

Over the past few years, companies who employ virtual assistants have developed some of the best software applications in the world for a variety of purposes like inventory, ERP, workforce management tools or data entry operations and the usage of these tools makes the employee far more efficient in his line of work.

The types of skills that are learned and used by the virtual assistant keeps him in good standing for the rest of his life, making it easy to switch careers at any given point. This is a valuable tool for any employee as it provides a bit of job security now and in the future, even if the work with the current employer does not pan out.

  1. Chance to Work with the Biggest Corporations

Over the years the biggest corporations in the world have recognized the importance of employing a virtual workforce and have recruited quite aggressively over the past few years. Most of these companies employ virtual assistants from all over the world and hence there is an opportunity for talented individuals to work for some of the biggest names in global business. These companies are only going to increase the number of virtual assistants in the years to come and that is something that will certainly boost the overall growth of the industry as a whole.

The job of a virtual assistant is dynamic, rewarding and offers the sort of variety in duties that can be exciting for absolutely anyone. In addition to that, the sort of growth that the industry has seen in the recent past makes it an excellent option for anyone who is just starting out as a professional or a veteran who is looking for a change in career path.

Tips to start business as a virtual assistant

I am sure after reading these reasons you will start wondering how to start a business as a virtual assistant. Don’t worry! Following 11 tips will help you to start your business as a virtual assistant:

  1. First decide which type of services you want to provide, and analyze your background in order to ensure you have ample experience.
  2. Always determine your business niche by specializing in just two to three services.
  3. Find out how much energy and time you have to commit to your venture. Do you want to full time or work part?
  4. Conduct in-depth research work of industry in order to determine a need for your services in your local area
  5. After that outline your clients, and all the related information such as where they are and how to access them
  6. Do a thorough analysis of market and find out the needs for your niche. Focus on how you will apply that to your business.
  7. Understand your monetary constraints i.e. expected income, projected expenses, and how long you can “float” until your business is running successfully.
  8. Carefully prepare a plan for your business and review it often in order to manage change and growth
  9. Thoroughly examine your software, equipment and work space in order to ensure they cater to client needs.
  10. Wrap up all financial and legal aspects of startup before securing first client
  11. If possible, market your services 24X7. Merely making website or placing an ad in the Yellow Pages does not attract the clients.

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