Davinci Virtual Blog



Virtual Office Users Can’t Avoid Political Debates

NEW YORK—The polls are neck and neck between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But a September Washington Post/ABC poll reveals 18 percent are undecided or could change their minds. That means plenty of office—and virtual office—chatter about politics as coworkers try to sway one another’s opinions.

You may avoid some—or even a lot—of the political chatter when you telecommute from a virtual office, but even working remotely may not get you totally off the hook. Whether you work in a New York virtual office or a LA coworking facility or a Chicago office space, you may run into some heated political debates before November.

“Most companies do not have a formal policy about political discussions in the workplace,” says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “However, especially with workplace bullying and incivility becoming an issue in the workplace, department heads and managers should be mindful of political discussions in an election year and tapped into the office environment.”

For the most part, employees have to monitor their own behavior whether they work in a  virtual office in New York or a traditional office in LA.  One of the keys to political discussions at the office is to keep them brief and light.  The last thing you want is for conversation to become confrontational.

“Supervisors should also be particularly careful about engaging subordinates in political debate,” Challenger says. “In today’s political arena, where political and religious views are often closely entwined, supervisors should avoid putting themselves in a position that could leave them vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.”

Challenger, Gray & Christmas offers the following tips:

Do not campaign: Give-and-take conversations are acceptable, but campaigning can be off-putting. If someone expresses discomfort with political discussions, respect his or her wishes.
If you must talk politics, stick to politics: While politics are increasingly entwined with religion, consider that aspect of the debate off limits.
Do not evaluate based on politics: You may not agree with a coworker’s political views, but, if you are a supervisor, do not let that influence your assessment of that person’s work and/or value to the company.

In some instances, discussing politics via virtual office technologies may even be more dangerous than face-to-face discussions because tone is lost in e-mail and instant messaging. People can really take an innocent comment totally the wrong way. So take extra care this season even when engaging in the friendliest political debates from your virtual office.

Virtual Office Users Can Discuss Politics Civilly

NEW YORK—The U.S. presidential elections will soon be upon us and the heated debates are bound to get hotter. You may have already seen workplace political debates arise in your office—even if you are working from a virtual office.

Whether you work in New York City, LA, Denver, Beverly Hills or somewhere else stateside—and whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent—the lines are blurring between employees’ work and personal lives. That means coworkers often discuss political views and opinions. But there should be rules, whether you are discussing politics from a New York virtual office or a traditional workplace in LA.

“Passions and tensions are high, especially with the general election so close, and with the Republican and Democratic candidates so different,” says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Political discussion is the hallmark of a free society, but when the debate enters the workplace, it can create some significant problems.”

According to a 2012 CareerBuilder Survey, 36 percent of workers discuss politics openly, and 43 percent expect to discuss politics this election year. A Vault.com survey from the last presidential election found that 30 percent of respondents said that a coworker has tried to influence their choice in an election.

“Political debates in the workplace not only can present a possible disruption of productivity, but they can create a tension-filled work environment.  In extreme cases, these debates can even become hostile,” Challenger says.

“For coworkers who discover that they disagree on a hot-button issue like defense spending, women’s health, and health care plans, which have been thoroughly debated in the media, it can be difficult to set aside these differences when it comes time to coordinate on a project.”

Discussing politics in the workplace may be less volatile from a virtual office, because people are at a distant and often instant messaging or emailing. Political discussions, then, are less productivity draining from a virtual office.

Here are two tips from Challenger for discussing politics from a virtual office or traditional office. (Come back tomorrow for three more):

First, keep it civil. You could be a Republican working in a New York virtual office debating with a LA virtual office user on the Democrat’s side. Don’t let friendly banter deteriorate into a name-calling shouting match. Also, know your colleague: Career-wise, it is probably safer to converse with those who share your views.  If unsure about a colleague’s views, then avoid political conversations or carefully probe for his or her views.

Four Ways Virtual Assistants Help Control Costs

NEW YORK--With the launch of the iPhone 5, there’s plenty of talk about virtual assistants these days. Although technology like Apple’s Siri and Google’s Iris is cool, we think the real talk in the small business community should about virtual assistants of a different kind—real-life virtual assistants!

That’s why I’m kicking off a series on virtual assistant services. In each column in the virtual assistant series, I’ll tackle one or two benefits of virtual assistants. The bottom line with virtual assistants is they let you focus on what you do best so you can drive more to your bottom line.

What is a virtual assistant? At Davinci, we call them “virtual assistants” or “live virtual receptionist”, but the services these experienced, skilled professionals provide are very real.  From administrative support and managerial tasks to creative services and personal scheduling; virtual office assistance is versatile, professional, and reliable.

One of my favorite benefits of virtual assistants is the ability to delegate tasks while controlling costs. Let’s face it. If you hire a full-time administrative assistant, you have to pay a full-time salary. On top of that, you have to find a space in your office for this new employee. On top of that you have to offer some form of benefits package. And on top of that you are out of luck if your assistant is sick.

Not so with an online virtual assistant. When you work with Davinci Virtual virtual assistant services, you can control your administrative costs. For starters, you can hire an online virtual assistant according to how many hours of actual work you need to get done. So if you only need an online virtual assistant for 20 hours a week, you avoid a full-time salary.

Then there’s the space issue. When you work with one of our virtual assistants, you don’t have to give them a cubicle or office equipment. That means you save on office and related expenses, like phones and computers. Our online virtual assistants have their own space and own gear to get the job done.

Now, when you work with one of our virtual assistants you don’t offer benefits packages. We handle all of that for you at no cost—and no risk to you. And let’s not forget sick days. At Davinci, we have a cadre of virtual assistants. That means if your regular online virtual assistant does happen to have a day off, we have a back up virtual assistant in place to keep your business running smoothly.

Reduce Exposure to Allergens With Virtual Office Work

LONDON—How often is your office cleaned? How does that contribute to workplace allergies? And—and this is the big question—how can working from a virtual office help?

An Allergy UK survey reveals that office cleaning is infrequent and doesn’t appear adequate enough to prevent the build up of house dust mites and allergens. In the survey, 37% said their office is cleaned just once a week or less—and 17% said their office is cleaned infrequently.

How does this affect productivity and could a virtual office really make a difference? Let’s look at some more stats. In the survey, 20 percent of respondents spent eight hours or more at work in a single day. When you combine that with a dusty environment, soft furnishings, poorly vacuumed carpets and lacking ventilation, it’s not difficult to see why so many employees suffer from allergies at work.

Now, here’s the kicker from a productivity perspective: 73 percent of those survey participants took time off sick in the last 12 months—and a significant 42 percent of that total took time off because of an allergy. In all, 42 percent took between four and 10 days off due to an allergy.

If you work from a virtual office, you have more control over your environment. For example, ventilation is important. When you work from a virtual office you can open a window and be sure your A/C filters are changed regularly.

You can use an air purifier in your virtual office to reduce household allergens. If you have plants make sure they are watered regularly and remove the top soil once and a while to avoid mold. You can do some of these things whether you work in a virtual office or not. But, of course, you have much more control over your environment when you work from a virtual office.

Have Allergies? A Virtual Office Could be Better for Your Health

LONDON—With the summer vacation season officially ending, Brits are buckling down at work. But Allergy UK warning that the office could actually be bad for our health. Could virtual offices be a better choice for people with allergies?

Allergy UK estimates that at least 5.7 million people could be allergic to their workplace—5.7 million people. Call it “work fever.” From nasal problems, eye conditions, dry throats, breathing difficulties, lethargy, headaches and skin irritations, 95 percent of participants in Allergy UK’s survey suffer from allergies. And 27 percent said their office environment makes their symptoms worse.

Specifically, 62 percent of respondents had experienced itchy or watery eyes, and 27 percent breathing difficulties over the last year in their office. And overall, more than half of the group surveyed had experienced an allergic reaction while at work.

“The results are of concern for Allergy UK because it is difficult for individuals to exercise the same control over their workplace as they would do at home,” says Maureen Jenkins, director of Clinical Services at Allergy UK. “Management of allergies becomes increasingly difficult when in communal spaces, so it’s not surprising that a great deal of allergy sufferers have experienced a reaction at work.”

And here’s where the virtual office can help. As Jenkins reported, it’s more difficult to maintain control over an office environment that’s not solely yours. If you work from a virtual office, you can make sure your space is well ventilated. When you work from a virtual office you can take responsibility for your carpets, which can harbor dust mites and other allergens, staying clean.

Also, when you work from a virtual office you can keep your shelves dusted. At work, if you remove books from a shelf you can release dust into the atmosphere, which can bother allergies. And then there’s plants. Plants can carry mold that release spores and cause allergic reactions. You can avoid that in a virtual office.

According to the study, even the people surrounding us in the workplace can trigger a reaction. Thirty-four percent of respondents had a pet allergy; and could react to allergens (pet dander) brought in on people’s clothes, especially cat allergen. And 61 percent of the office workers questioned sat within a meter of someone else, making the risk even greater. When you work in an office, you can fly solo.