You're probably aware of the many smartphone apps that claim to be able to do the work of a personal assistant, but did you know that it's possible to hire one who works remotely? There is a small industry of remote personal assistants who only communicate with you through email or over the phone. Are they as good as an in-person assistant? Farhad Manjoo, a journalist for The Independent — a U.K. newspaper — recently wrote about his experiences working with one.
Manjoo, a busy father of two, wanted an assistant to help him balance his work and home responsibilities. Looking to save money, he chose to find an employee through an internet agency. In retrospect, he wrote, the idea of hiring a remote assistant is inherently dangerous.
"How could I trust this person with the most intimate details of my personal and professional life? How could I know that he'd be a good proxy for me when dealing with others? How could I be sure he wouldn't rob me blind?" Manjoo wrote.
Fortunately for Manjoo, his online assistant didn't steal, but he was not a very useful employee. It took him am unacceptable amount of time to book airline tickets, he wasn't familiar with transcription and he would "disappear" for days at a time without communicating with his employer.
Manjoo cancelled the service after a few weeks when he accepted that an online personal assistant is no replacement for someone on-site.
"To be truly useful, an assistant needs to understand everything about your life and work," Manjoo wrote. "An assistant is a confidante. But it's impossible to develop a deep, trusting relationship with a person you know only by email."
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