Working Virtually: Best Practices and Tips to Help Companies Successfully Operate in a Virtual Environment

Working Virtually: Best Practices and Tips to Help Companies Successfully Operate in a Virtual Environment

As organizations worldwide look to navigating this unprecedented time, developing strategies to protect their businesses and the people in them, there is one major reality that we must face – not only can we not wait until the cavalry arrives… THERE IS NO CAVALRY!

We cannot wait for someone, or some organization, to swoop in and bail us out. There is no magic solution. We have to rely on our connections and networks for experience, advice, and ideas in order to support each other through this difficult time.

That is why we created this communication – to share with the business community some best practices and tips for working virtually.

As an employer, there are some significant benefits to having your employees work from home. In this day and age, people are being pulled in many more directions and time has become an absolute commodity. Offering employees the option to work remotely provides them with the flexibility they need to more efficiently juggle the increasing demands on their time. Remote work also eliminates the hours and expense employees spend commuting to work. There are also a number of distractions that naturally exist in an office environment which are eliminated in a home office, so employees are more focused.

Offering remote work options means that your talent pool is no longer limited to a geographical area. This opens up significant opportunities to find the best people possible. In addition, if employees need to relocate because of personal reasons (spouse job move, aging parents, etc.), it doesn’t necessarily mean you lose the talent (and have to invest the thousands of dollars necessary to hire and train someone new).

Many companies are mandating that their staff work from home for at least the next few weeks. As a 100% virtual company, with staff right across Canada, we have a lot of experience in this area. Here are some of our best practices and tips on having your staff work remotely:


  1. Increase the frequency. As described in the book “Installing Change” by Robert H. Kent, the three most important principles in change are 1. Communication, 2. Communication, and 3. Communication. When you are not seeing your staff in the office every day, you need to increase your touchpoints with them. We conduct weekly team meetings, company meetings, etc. on a regular meeting rhythm (the same as most companies), we just do it all virtually.  Continue to maintain your regular meeting cadence but look for opportunities to increase your touchpoints with employees.
  2. Use online platforms. We use Slack as an inter-company communication tool. It allows us to communicate and interact in both fun and informative ways. We have several channels in Slack that we use for information and experience sharing, and then one that replaces the normal “office talk” you get from an in-person office. Our “fun” channel in Slack is called Happy Hour – in it, we celebrate birthdays, anniversary milestones, photos of family and pets, etc. It’s a great tool to maintain a connection even when your staff isn’t working in the same office. Slack isn’t the only great program available, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Samepage, etc. can fulfill the same purpose.
  • More follow up is required. Seeing as the normal day to day conversations will no longer occur, (i.e. in the hallways, walking by offices, on breaks, by the water cooler, etc.), you need to schedule follow up communications on projects and tasks regularly.
  • Use virtual video tools to get as much face-to-face time as possible. We are not endorsing any one program, so some examples are: Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangout, Skype, Facebook Live, Microsoft Teams, etc.
  • It is particularly important to be deliberate in texts/emails about punctuation and verbiage to convey tone and emotional context! Leave as little room as possible for misinterpretation and encourage everyone to remember our “humanness” despite the technology delivering our message.
  • Measurables are critical. It is easy to maintain trust and efficiency in a virtual working environment if you have metrics set for each employee. When you aren’t available for personal supervision, it is natural to feel some apprehension around employee performance. How do you know they are working? How do you know tasks and projects are still being completed on time? Performance metrics keep everyone accountable to company goals and objectives and should reassure you that your staff are still performing.

Setting Up a Virtual Office:

  1. Remote access. Make sure that your company has worked with your IT provider to make remote access to work computers and files available.
  2. Try to make your work area as separate as possible from the rest of the house. This helps to reduce distractions and allows you to be in work mode during your normal working hours.
  3. Maintain your normal schedule. Get up at the same time as usual and dress for work. Although it might be very attractive to stay in your PJs all day, if you do so, your mind stays in rest, not work, mode! This will focus your mindset for work, help you mentally prepare for a regular workday, give you more energy, and of course, makes you look presentable for virtual calls.
  4. Document sharing. If you’re not already on cloud-based file storage, it’s a good time to get up to date with this technology. The last thing any company wants is files stored on local computers, with no access or proper backup protocols. There are secure cloud-based programs for file sharing such as Dropbox, Sync, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Hightail, Tresorit, Box, Citrix ShareFile, etc.
  5. Schedule everything – block off times in your calendar for every function, action, priority, and task. You won’t have the usual triggers from co-workers and management, so it’s up to you to step up and self-manage.
  6. Take frequent stretch breaks – your home office is less likely to be as ergonomic as your setup at the company office. This also helps to reduce the feeling of cabin fever.
  7. Keep your work area and electronics clean. Use disinfectants on your computer, screen, keyboard, mouse, desktop and especially your cell phone.
  8. Did we mention to wash your hands regularly?

Tips for Virtual Meetings:

  1. Use virtual video tools as much as possible. Engagement is much easier to maintain if you have visual as well as audio signals.
  2. Schedule meetings in advance and provide a summary agenda PRIOR to the meeting so that participants can properly prepare.
  3. Have everyone turn off their other technologies so that they can be present and attentive.
  4. Talk slower and enunciate more – there is usually a delay on virtual platforms, and they are not as clear as in person.
  5. Take more pauses – give people time to absorb the message and think about questions and input.
  6. Be over-expressive on video (small movements are unperceivable on screen).
  7. Keep everyone engaged by asking questions and prodding for input.
  8. Always have a WHO, WHAT, WHEN (Who is doing What by When) list for action items coming out of the meeting.
  9. Remember to keep all goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound).
  10. Always have a note-taker and send out the meeting minutes afterward.

Nick Thompson
Co-Founder & President of VEA

Nick Thompson is the Co-Founder and President of VEA – a virtual Executive Assistant and Bookkeeping company. VEA specializes in 100% Canadian staff, providing North American business owners and executives with a better way to scale.

Our team understands the complex and diverse job descriptions faced by many of today’s CEOs, presidents, and entrepreneurs. All of our virtual assistants and bookkeepers have multiple years (5+ and most have 10+) of experience in an EA/Bookkeeping role.

Work/Life Balance Resources (Part 5/5)

Work/Life Balance Resources (Part 5/5)

Our past 4 days have hopefully brought you tons of value and a better perspective on what “work/life balance” looks like for you. Here are a few more internal & external resources to help you out because we do not profess to have it all figured out:

Blog Posts:



We sincerely hope this series has helped you. From the EA’s to the bookkeepers, to the CEO of VEA; we all have family time as one of our top core values. As we travel this road we will do everything we can to help you on your journey as well.

If there is anything we can do to help you out, please do not hesitate to reach out.

– Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing for VEA


Work/Life Balance Pie Chart (Part 4/5)

Work/Life Balance Pie Chart (Part 4/5)

Work/Life Balance

One of the most basic, yet most powerful, exercises that I ever did on measuring my current life balance against where I wanted to be is a simple ‘Balance Pie Chart’.  I have provided the full exercise below so that you could feel free to take yourself through it.

Receive the full exercise by signing up below:

If you need any help with the ‘Pie Chart’ or with releasing some of the tasks from your plate to focus on the important stuff, please reach out to us at any time.

Check out part 3/5 of our series ‘Life is Like Riding a Bicycle.’
In part 5/5, we have resources to help you on this path.


Nick Thompson
Co-Founder & President of VEA
1.833.VEA.PROS (832.7767)

Life is Like Riding a Bicycle (Part 3 /5)

Life is Like Riding a Bicycle (Part 3 /5)

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Alberta Einstein

As illustrated in the diagram above, there are a number of life ‘wheels’ that we need to keep moving in order to stay balanced.  Just because we have defined what our own personal life balance entails, and we have worked hard to achieve some sense of that balance, doesn’t mean that we have arrived at the destination and all is good for the remainder of our lives.

Just like weight loss or good grades, we have to constantly work on maintaining it.  This is actually the harder part because it’s easier to slip back into our old, comfortable ways than to carry on the workload required to sustain a new, improved life aspect.  Furthermore, we have to continue to move in the direction of constant improvement, or we will only fall behind.

Creating Lasting Habits

Using the analogy of keeping our weight loss down or maintaining good grades, we have to take the necessary steps to push through change and create new, lasting habits that will become engrained in our everyday way of living.  Here is a collaboration of useful tips that I have learned over the years from people that have worked incredibly hard to maintain weight loss, quit smoking, retain good grades and, of course, achieve their own life balance (and, FYI, these tips can be applied to pretty much ANY area of your life to obtain positive results):

1. Measure your progress daily – Daily because there will be moments when you feel completely in control and on top of your game… and moments when you need to muster all of the self-control and will power just to keep going.  You need to see the results, no matter how tiny, in order to believe that what you are doing is actually working.  You can also celebrate your small successes along the way, which creates pleasure in your journey and further motivation to continue.

2. Only do it if it moves you forward or makes you happy – Especially in this world of immediate gratification and constant communication, we tend to waste so much of our time on tasks that provide no benefit to our work or personal lives.  Because so much these days requires an immediate response, we tend to spend too much time on the urgent and not enough time on the important.  Those things that are important but not urgent usually get shuffled to the bottom of the pile, but are crucial to moving forward (i.e. family planning, introspective work, creating a Will, and so on):

It’s obvious to note, then, that making sure we are always mindful and doing something important helps us to continue to move forward productively… which, in turn, provides us with a greater feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction (a.k.a. Happiness).

3. Set goals and prioritize – I know you’ve heard this many times.  Setting goals and prioritizing your life is an important step in creating balance because it helps you to always be moving forward.  You simply will not be able to put solid order in your life if you do not know what is most important to you and set concrete objectives to focus on.

4. Schedule everything – As a tool for helping to set goals and prioritize, make sure that you schedule time/activities with family members and friends, date night with your spouse, workouts, etc. on your calendar. If it’s scheduled in writing, it’s more permanent and other urgent but not as important things that crop up won’t take over; it’s easier to organize your life and make sure that you are able to measure your progress towards balance.

5. Learn how to say ‘No’, positively – Sometimes the ability to say ‘No’ is greater and has a far more positive influence on our lives than the ability to say ‘Yes’.  It empowers us to make the necessary decisions to remain focused on what’s important to us.  Obviously, that’s not to mean that you have to say ‘No’ to anything that is not directly related to your own benefit – it’s just honing the skill to be able to choose (in a positive way) if it’s something worthwhile or if it has no meaning to your life.  This is directly related to Tip #2 = “Only do it if it moves you forward or makes you happy”, otherwise learn to say ‘No’ in a positive way.

6. A healthy, balanced life requires a healthy body – If you haven’t got this message yet from one source or another, you’re not paying attention!  Eating well and being physically active helps to increase our productivity and longevity, lower stress, improve our ability to focus, build our confidence, develop better disciplines and, ultimately, move us forward to a healthier, more balanced life.  Even balancing your daily vitamin intake can have dramatic effects on improving your life in many areas. Sorry, but it is simply a fact of life and I can’t stress it enough.  You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, just get active, eat healthier, do healthier activities and watch the positive results gain momentum.

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.” – Brian Tracy

If there is anything we can do to help you out, feel free to reach out to get your work and personal life back on track.

Next up: Part 4, our “Work-Life Balance Pie Chart.
See part 2: “The Work/Life Balance Conundrum.”

– Nick Thompson
Co-Founder & President of VEA

The Work/Life Balance Conundrum (Part 2/5)

The Work/Life Balance Conundrum (Part 2/5)

The biggest issue with the self-help industry is the moulds that are created and the box that you are seemingly being forced into. I almost want to say “unfortunately” here but rather I will choose the word “thankfully” because thankfully there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to a solution.

If you have read our blogs you will see that we prefer to give advice coming from what worked for us. We leave it open for you to try it so you can take what works, and throw away the rest. Through trial and error, you can come up with a custom solution that works for you.

For example, when it comes to sleep habits:

  • You can read 2 blogs, one tells you to get 4 hours because that is what the most successful people do
  • The other says 7-8 hours where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • You try 4 hours, it doesn’t work so you go for 7 hours strategy from 10pm-5am and you feel refreshed.

We should never feel guilty if something worked for someone else but does not work for us, it just means we need to adjust and try something else. Work/life balance is not impossible, but each season may look different. When we think balance, we think 50% one way, 50% the other. As the Father of a newborn and a toddler, I can tell you that my life right now is not 50/50. It is more of a 70/30, family over work right now.

As we create routines and our newborn starts to settle in, that will come closer to 50/50. It may even have to sway to more work to make up for that time, maybe a 60/40.

We have a pie chart exercise in part 4 of this series that you can see what your life looks like right now and where you want it to be. DO NOT be married to those percentages for the rest of your life, be flexible and re-visit it in different seasons of life.

As always, if there is anything we can do to help you out, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Check out Part 3: “Life Is Like Riding a Bicycle.
See our intro to the series “Work/Life Balance – Introduction.

– Derek Burbidge
Manager of Sales & Marketing for VEA