How Hiring Virtual Assistants Can Boost Employee Performance and Work-Life Balance

UPDATED: June 19, 2023
PUBLISHED: June 19, 2023
virtual assistant helping employer from home

Business leaders have a new solution to alleviating employee burnout and helping them create more balance—hiring virtual assistants (VAs) to free up employees’ time and creative energy.

Remote work widely and rapidly became the norm for some workers during the pandemic. Along the way, this transformation offered the future of work plenty of space to be reimagined, including how (and from where) teams function.

Laith Masarweh, founder and CEO of Assistantly, an agency that connects businesses with virtual assistants around the world, says that in the third quarter of 2022, bosses hiring VAs for their employees increased significantly, by 10% to 15% of Assistantly’s business.

Masarweh says it’s a way to better allocate employees’ time, especially when they have special skills, so you aren’t paying high salaries for basic administrative tasks. He points to around a year ago when there were massive layoffs happening, “just completely wiping companies out,” he says. Many companies approached Assistantly for help. AppSumo hired 11 VAs to off-load customer support and product management from their “A-level players.”

Masarweh also sees VAs as a way to attract and retain employees. He has seen real estate brokerage firms take this approach and foresees that expanding. “One of the recruiting mechanisms for real estate brokerages is, ‘We’ll give you a virtual assistant if you come over,’” he says. “Before you even start, you pretty much are offered an assistant—if you’ve never had an assistant, and you can come here and get a bigger split, and get an assistant on top of that, for a lot of people it’s a no-brainer.”

Here’s what leaders should know about this potential solution.

Why might your team need to hire virtual assistants?

According to the 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report, 59% of American workers are reporting moderate or higher levels of burnout. Business leaders, then, must think about whether their workplaces are conducive to employee happiness and health. While virtual assistants are helpful, they can’t completely undo distrust or the overwhelm of overbooked and overburdened employees. Instead, they can be a helpful tool toward achieving more balance, but not by themselves.

Masarweh says a CEO who manages around 600 people in property management portfolios told him, “It seems like the people that I do have in place are going to leave if I don’t get them support quickly.” That leader hired assistants to help.

Taking time away from work is also essential to mental health and wellness, something that VAs have helped with at East End Taste, a Hamptons-based online publication covering food and sustainable travel. Vanessa Gordon, its founder and publisher, recently hired VAs for her team of eight employees, which includes web developers, designers, writers and social media and production managers. She says her employees’ VAs were essential over holiday break to “hit the ground running in 2023.”

C. Marcela Guzmán-Lopez, a broker at Cagan Management, says that the nine virtual assistants she hired for her staff from Assistantly have had a very positive impact. Employees “were able to take their PTO knowing that someone was fully covering their [tasks] and that they are not coming back to catch up with their emails and reports; they have a teammate they can trust, because they went to the same training as the in-office assistants,” she says.

What types of tasks might virtual assistants help with?

Masarweh hopes more leaders will determine what tasks are inside their team’s “zone of genius” and opt to assign tasks outside of it to VAs. The first step might be asking your own team what tasks are considered time-sucking for them; that is, tasks that take away from your team’s ability to  focus on larger, more specialized projects. Their answers can be revealing.

Typical tasks a VA can help with include:

  • Communication, such as phone and email management
  • Organizing
  • Data entry
  • Invoicing and payroll management
  • Social media administration
  • Research

What might the return on investment be?

Gordon says the payoff has been well worth the investment. “Specifically as a small and ambitious company, I wanted to alleviate as much repetitive work as possible for my team. For instance, it could take hours building contact spreadsheets, writing reports, answering emails, attending webinars and conducting research, just to name a few,” she says. But VAs have done more than that, too. “VAs oftentimes bring a new and refreshed approach to the team as many have brought forward new ideas, introduced us to new technical features, plug-ins for the website, website and app resources and so much more,” Gordon adds.

This has directly impacted her company’s growth. East End Taste doubled its revenue last year, which Gordon attributes to employees “spending less time with tasks that can seem to eat away at time… and moving forward with assignments and tasks that continue to build the company as opposed [to] being swamped.”

Often virtual assistants help on a freelance or contract basis, though some are hired as permanent employees. A virtual assistant service, Virtudesk, reports that VAs save 78% annually on operating costs, and that 59% of assistants are considered full-time employees.

What should leaders know about hiring virtual assistants?

Integrating VAs into a team may seem a bit overwhelming at first. Guzmán-Lopez recommends learning about what type of software and hardware VAs have to ensure it’s adequate for your needs. “As a company, we decided to upgrade their hardware and internet connection at our cost, because we expected them to work as well as any other Cagan employees,” she says.

Gordon says some initial obstacles were trusting the VAs’ ability to understand the task at hand and ensuring that communication flow between her employees and their assistants would be “seamless.” “For example, the VA is most often in a different time zone than my employee, and my employee is expected to work only during the day. However, I personally have been pleasantly surprised with how VAs do not mind shifting their schedules or working accordingly to our time zone,” she says.

Gordon also recommends platforms like Fiverr or connecting with people she’s met while networking to find VAs that fit your needs. In the end, the obstacles are worth it, she says: After all, “We already know how to build spreadsheets and other routine tasks; why spend so much time day after day on that alone?” 

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by Kateryna Onyshchuk/Shutterstock