Is being a VA and Working From Home Good for Your Health?
You might think the answer to this question is straight yes but it's more complicated than that. Whilst there are of course many, and well documented benefits to working flexibly from home - it takes a particular kind of person to thrive in this workplace environment.
Ok, so no more long commutes to the office, being around for school pickups, getting the washing done and being home for all your deliveries is a big plus, but when the delivery driver is the only person you see or speak to all day, then it can be a problem!
Some days the sense of isolation, the imposter syndrome as a new business owner and the insecurity about your contract with your clients can be overwhelming if you haven't got the right measures in place. I will talk about those measures later.
I've been working from home for 2 years now running my Virtual Personal Assistant business The PA Portal. It's been an incredible 2 years and I can't even contemplate how much I have learnt and grown in this time personally and professionally. However, over the 2 years, there have been big highs and if I am honest a fair few lows.
The lows have come from working remotely and working crazy long and unsociable hours. Being a Virtual PA or Virtual Assistant, whatever you call yourself the facts are the same, being your own boss and a business owner takes a massive personal and time commitment. I soon found that I literally never switch off from VA life, unless I’m asleep.
I really think you have to be a 'unique' kind of person to make it work! If you are not determined, focused, highly organised and driven then it will not be for you. You might find yourself sinking rather than swimming and you may well find it affecting your health and well-being.
Once you have overcome the mindset change from employee to a business owner (not as easy as it sounds) and have successfully launched your VA business, you will be full of enthusiasm and raring to go. This really IS an exciting time especially when you land your first client! With the continued advancements in technology, the world is literally your oyster! Go grab it!
However, hang on a minute, before you go off into the big business world and get engrossed in client work: NOW is the time to put measures in place to focus on your health, happiness and well-being. Yes, now... before it's too late!
I've met lots and lots of VAs who have made the tough decision, after resigning from their comfortable full-time jobs and putting their heart and soul into their VA businesses, who then had to let it all go and return to employment because their physical and mental health was suffering.
I don't want this to be you, so I am sharing some of the measures I have put in place in this guest blog, which I hope can help you too.
1. Create an area in your home just for work - I'm lucky to have a dedicated home office but I know not everyone has a spare room. Find an area that you can call your own. Make sure you have a comfy back-supporting chair and good light. If you don't have a room where you can shut the door at the end of the day, then get some storage boxes where you can hide your paperwork and laptop and anything else associated with your business, so you have a clear separation between work and life.
2. Diarise and take lots of screen breaks - As VAs and PAs, we lead an unhealthy, unnatural lifestyle. Sitting at a desk, locked inside, probably with poor posture, staring at a PC screen or phone for hours at a time is really not good for you and not what our human bodies were designed for. There's a ton of research about why breaks are good for us, "to increase productivity and protect our health”, but sometimes we just decide not to listen. This article from Social Triggers explains the science behind it all and recommends taking short breaks – say 5 to 15 minutes – every hour or so and taking a longer break – at least 30 minutes – every 2 to 4 hours (depending on your task). I recommend that too.
3. Work from a cafe, co-working or public space once a week - Wi-Fi is everywhere and you can even use your own phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot so there is no excuse not to change your working environment regularly. Sometimes being at home can be a distraction. When you are working all the hours running your business your home chores often get neglected, don't stress about the mess, just escape it once in a while. There are tons of co-working spaces out there too, even if you go for a day once a month it will be worth it.
4. Network outside of the house - as PAs we are used to being behind the scenes and face to face networking can be pretty daunting. When you start out, look for a local small group for your first meeting and take it from there. I joined Women in Business and Ladies Who Latte in my local area and I know they have networks all over the country. You will meet like-minded isolated business owners, who get it and get you. They will become an invaluable support network not just to help grow your business but to watch out for you and support you.
5. Diarise twice weekly 'me-time' - this could be exercise classes, lunch with friends, time for a hobby, or a long walk in the park. Whatever floats your boat, make sure you do it and stick to the same times each week, so it doesn't slip out of the diary. I've discovered Yoga works for me, and the meditation sessions included really help to switch off my busy 'business' brain.
6. Volunteer in your community - I decided from day one when I started working for myself that I would ring-fence one of the hours that I 'saved' from commuting to volunteer in my local community. I'm still doing it 2 years later. I'm an "Older Person Befriender" and I sit for an hour each week with a 90-year-old lady and chat, just chat. People can be isolated or feel alone for all sorts of reasons – whether you're 90 years old or working on your own! I find it incredibly rewarding and the companionship works for us both. This might be a fit for you or you might find something out in the fresh air works better.
7. Only have healthy snacks at home - like me you will be tempted to eat whatever unhealthy foods you have in your home when you're working from home. I have found the best way to resist the temptation is not to have them in the house, if you have to have that chocolate bar then a walk to the local shop to get it is better for you then eating it at your desk. If you can, you pack yourself a bag full of healthy snacks in the morning and always keep a water bottle on my desk or anywhere you go to keep you hydrated.
There are lots of other tips I am sure other VAs and freelancers could share with you, but I truly believe these ones will get you off to a great start and lead you to success.
If you are thinking about transitioning from PA to VA, please don't let the negatives put you off as it's a completely awesome rewarding way to earn a living, but I want you to be realistic about the level of commitment it's going to take and where it could leave you if you're not aware of your health and happiness from the start of your VA journey.
“HAPPINESS IS THE NEW RICH. INNER PEACE IS THE NEW SUCCESS. HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH. KINDNESS IS THE NEW COOL.” —Syed Balkhi