I have been employed as a Virtual Assistant with Virtual Assistant Israel for nearly a year now (since the second I stepped off the plane in Israel from Baltimore, Maryland). For almost all of that time I have engaged with at least two clients on the West Coast – a full 10-hour time difference from Israel.
As a client, you may be wondering how this works – how can someone who is 10 hours ahead of you, who is heading to bed when it is early afternoon for you, and many time zones away, perform tasks on your behalf?
As a Virtual Assistant, I understand that I am going to be working non-Israeli business hours for many of my clients. That means that at about 3:00 pm Israel time (8 am EST) the work for the day starts arriving. My clients are thrilled that as early as 6:00 am their time, I am online and ready to work, already 2 coffees in.
They also understand that by midnight Israel time, I’m usually shutting down for the day. For the East Coasters, that’s a respectable 5:00 pm, but for those in sunny California, that’s only 2:00 pm – almost half of their workday still remains.
Here’s how we bridge the gap:
Communication: For one West Coast client, for whom I manage calendar and travel arrangements and thus want to be easily accessible, we came to an interesting solution. My boss at the company simply informed everyone that I was off-site, 10 hours ahead of California. It’s a rather small company, so communicating this was not a problem.
For those outside the company, since I have a company email account, and my emails have signature and contact information, we came up with an elegant solution. We decided that my title would be “Virtual Assistant” to give the email recipient some inkling that I was not on site. Then, under my signature information, I added, “I look forward to responding to your email within 24 hours, due to time differences.” Everyone accepts this, I am always ahead of the 24 hour expectation, and our problem is solved.
Scheduling: Needless to say, it is inevitable that assignments are delegated during hours I am not available. But when I come to work each day (and they are still sleeping), I can complete a good deal of work and have it “on their desks” when they arrive in their morning. They do, in effect, wake up to a clean inbox.
Emergency situations: I always tell my clients that, in an emergency, I will be there for them. No matter what the time of day, I am there for them and am part of the team. Although this rarely happens, I feel that my clients sense my commitment to their companies and to getting the job done.
As a Virtual Assistant, it’s my job to find creative ways, considering the time differences, to get my clients’ work done efficiently and effectively. I enjoy the challenge – and my clients are amazingly supportive of my situation. It’s a good situation all around!