The virtual assistant is gradually becoming a vital element in today's workplace.  Companies are slowing coming to realize the numerous areas where a virtual assistant can provide support.  Virtual assistants can provide services that range from project management to administrative support to event and meeting planning. They can assist an organization with specialized services, such as human resources or accounting.  They can provide daily assistance to a busy executive or work with a team to manage complex projects.  A virtual assistant works autonomously from an at-home office and work product is submitted via electronic channels.  They must maintain an office with the latest technology developments and are required to have an advanced knowledge of the software applications that a company utilizes.  A virtual assistant is not an employee of the company, but are independent contractors, and a virtual assistant will usually work for multiple companies at one time.  Companies are beginning to realize the many advantages of hiring these independent contractors.  One example is the money-saving benefits to the organization because a virtual assistant does not meet the same qualifications of a standard employee.  Therefore, the costs associated with hiring, placing and training a standard employee, are regained by the employer when they use a virtual assistant.  In addition, while employee costs are decreased, work-product is increased.  An experienced virtual assistant is able to quickly acclimate to a new project and does not require the typical time needed for learning a task.  Virtual assistants possess experience in both real-world positions and virtual positions.  Their experiences make them great communicators and they are highly attentive to detail.  Virtual assistants must continuously expand their skills and knowledge to meet the demands of the company.  There are changes in technology, management and procedure that a virtual assistant must support.   A virtual assistant must understand the culture of the company they work for and follow all workplace policies, but they do not have the benefit of face-to-face interaction.  They rely on past experiences and a talent for intuition to guide them.   The demand for the range of services provided by virtual assistants continues to grow at a steady rate.  The more companies understand the benefit of their services, the more companies will want to utilize their services.  The future may hold a time when entire departments will be staffed with a virtual workforce.  Today, however, most companies hold fast to the tradition of direct employees and the limited resources they can provide. 


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