A tighter budget often encourages companies to outsource clerical and administrative work to virtual assistants, saving them the cost of employee benefits and valuable office space. VAs are typically independent contractors, working in a remote location where they are not under the physical supervision of executive or management staff. Because this type of work setup facilitates more flexible hours -- which are often nontraditional, such as weekends and holidays -- it can be difficult to accurately track time worked and activities completed without the appropriate tools in place.
When installed on the VA's computer, activity monitoring software sits in the background and collects information about everything that is done on the computer. You can effectively track every window, every email, every document and every website accessed -- with or without screenshots -- giving an idea of what the VA is doing at any given time. If implemented appropriately -- in other words, both parties agree to its installation and monitoring is only enabled during proper work hours -- activity monitoring can facilitate accurate invoicing, efficient project management and more sophisticated reporting. Both RescueTime and Spector Pro are well-reviewed and compatible on PC and Mac platforms.
Manual Time and Activity Tracking
You can also implement tracking software that requires the VA to manually enter time and activity data. The premise is simple: the assistant logs in, enters a code or selects a button that signifies an activity, and then logs out at the end of the workday or project. Most of these solutions allow you to customize projects and time codes by color and billing rate. For the client, it fulfills the need to track time without requiring intrusive monitoring software -- and from the VA's standpoint, it offers a way to effectively multitask between clients. Check out Klok Pro for this type of solution.
Project Management Software
Although the solution is much more complex than simple time tracking, a project management program can be an effective way to implement a tracking of the VA's daily progress -- especially if the rest of the office already uses something similar to manage tasks. Microsoft's SharePoint, for example, is a sophisticated and in-depth project management tool that not only tracks activities and time spent, it facilitates email management, document sharing and team collaboration. For a more basic project management tool that acts more like a checkable to-do list that also records time spent on each task, take a look at Grindstone.
If you have implemented RescueTime as your software solution, the company also offers an Android version, but there are a number of standalone products that can be installed on a mobile device to track activity when the VA is not seated in front of a computer. TimeCatcher, for example, tracks time spent on the cell phone with clients using a timer. It is available on Intuit's website and works with the company's Quickbook products. On the Clock, an iOS app, inputs data you can customize by client, project and rate, plus it starts and stops task timing with the tap of a finger.
A basic system that requires the VA to check in periodically throughout the day or week can also be effective. Instant messaging applications -- that are available both online as well as mobile -- can facilitate instant communication even when the VA is tied up on the phone. Other solutions include a daily email detailing current project status or an online project tracking spreadsheet. A Google Doc, for example, can be updated in real-time and shared so it is accessible by both the client and the VA.
- PC Mag: Spector Pro
- PC World: Save Your Team from Inefficiency with RescueTime
- PC World: Track Billable Time With Klok Pro
- Microsoft Sharepoint: Overview
- PC World: Track Your Work -- And Do It Faster -- With Grindstone
- Intuit: 6 Mobile Apps for Keeping Time Cards or Tracking Billable Hours
- Tech Hive: More iPhone Time-Tracking Apps
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images