Digital detox for business owners

The idea of doing a digital detox – i.e. stepping away from technology to focus on real-life hobbies and in-person interactions – can seem challenging at the best of times, and especially so now, when we have even fewer opportunities for face-to-face quality time. But taking a digital detox could be even more important right now: since we’re being forced to spend so much time online, to do our work and stay in touch with our loved ones, the time we spend offline has become even more precious.

If you’re a business owner, you might be finding it particularly difficult to cut down on your screen time, as this may be the only way for you to communicate with your employees, network with others in your field, and promote your business to customers. After all, you can’t just put your phone in a box and stop checking your emails when you have a business to run! The good news is that a digital detox is still possible for you – here are some things you can do to give yourself a break from the screens, and to use them more mindfully when you need to.

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Meet the Regional Director – Sarah Yandell

Here at Get Ahead VA, our people are everything. We’re dedicated to growing our business all over the country, so our customers can access a wide range of highly skilled professionals wherever they are. We currently have regional offices in Leeds, Berkshire & North Hampshire, South Yorkshire and West Surrey, and we’re pleased to announce our latest addition: Suffolk & Essex.

Here’s 60 seconds with our Suffolk & Essex Regional Director, Sarah Yandell

Area of Expertise: 

Managing and facilitating teams at all levels in order to achieve organisational and strategic goals.

When and why did you join Get Ahead VA?

I joined Get Ahead VA in July 2020 after working in the travel industry for 30 years.  I loved my career in travel but with the disruption caused by Covid19, I decided it was time for a change.  After extensive research I found Get Ahead VA, and following a number of conversations with Rebecca and some of the existing franchisees, I was convinced that this opportunity fitted my skill set perfectly.

What did you do before you joined Get Ahead VA?

During my career in travel, I worked in all parts of the supply chain.  This included hotel sales;  travelling all over the world to source accommodation for a student travel company and setting up and running an award winning specialist tour operator.  I took a year out from my career in 2001 to do a full time MBA which included a dissertation with British Airways on CRM and loyalty programmes.  I continue to be passionate about delivering service which is beyond expectation.

Career Highlight to date:   

I feel that joining the Get Ahead team is a culmination of all my skills and experience gained in my career so far.  I have the freedom of running my own business, while still being part of an enthusiastic and supportive team.  The role enables me to work with small businesses locally and help them to achieve their business goals; while having a fantastic work life balance.

Plans for the future:

To grow the Get Ahead business in Essex and Suffolk by collaborating with small businesses in the local community and building a team of experts.

If your business could benefit from Sarah’s help, please get in touch on 07971 655771 or 01206 625535, or email sarah@getaheadva.com. To find a regional office where you are, please get in touch on 01483 332220 or email office@getaheadva.com. We pride ourselves on being the staff you don’t see, but the difference you do.

Life after lockdown – is it time to change the way you work?

We’ve all noticed the profound effects of COVID-19, both on the economy and on our everyday lives. Lockdown forced many of us to work from home, while for others it has meant furloughing and even job loss. But a great positive we’ve all gained is the opportunity to review our working life. Was it going well before 23 March, or is it going better now? Have we been ditched by our employers, or do we feel like ditching them?!

In this blog, we look at the impact of lockdown on our working lives, and invite you to ask yourself whether it’s time for a change.

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Tips for attending a virtual conference

Conferences are incredibly useful for all sorts of reasons – you can promote yourself, network and make new contacts, and find out about the latest developments in your industry. And although lockdown has put an end to most in-person conferences this year, many important events are still happening online.

If you’re planning to attend a virtual conference, it’s a good idea to be prepared, because it’s going to be different than you’re used to! The events might be pretty much the same, but you may find it tricky to get into the ‘conference mindset’ at home, so to help you out, here are our top tips for attending a virtual conference.

1. Remove distractions

There are all sorts of distractions at home that you wouldn’t have to deal with at a conference, including children, partners, pets, the ringing phone and the pile of washing up in the corner. Get yourself into conference mode by minimising these distractions as much as possible. Move to a quiet room, preferably with a door you can close, and silence or turn off your mobile phone. Giving the event your full attention will help you to get the most out of it.

2. Schedule your time

Treat this conference the same as you would an in-person one, by sitting down ahead of time and planning out your day. Choose a few can’t-miss events and some others you’d like to attend, and then build your day around them, including tea and lunch breaks. Having a few solid appointments in your calendar will help you to prioritise the most important events, and also make sure you definitely attend!

3. Learn how it works

It’s a good idea to get familiar with the technology beforehand so you don’t have to struggle with technical issues on the day. Most organisers will send pre-conference information, telling you how you can access the events and where you can find the materials/slides for each talk. Take time to read this information and have a practice with whatever conferencing software they’re using, so when the time comes you’ll be ready to go.

4. Go with a friend

Conferences are usually more fun with someone you know, so why not invite a friend along – perhaps a work colleague or a fellow business owner in your field? You can attend the events together, or just meet up for a virtual coffee break and a debrief to energise you for the rest of the day. Attending with a friend will also keep you accountable and help you avoid all those pesky distractions!

Virtual conferences could well become more prevalent in the future, so now is a great time to try a couple out and see what works best for you as an attendee.


Need someone to take care of the day-to-day jobs while you attend your conference? Get Ahead VA’s team of virtual assistants can cover your admin and telephone answering for the day, so you can concentrate on the events you really want to see. To find out more about how we can help, please give Get Ahead VA a call on 01483 332220 or email us at office@getaheadva.com. We pride ourselves on being the staff you don’t see, but the difference you do.

How to do CPD from home

Keeping up with your continuing professional development (CPD) can be tricky at the best of times, and chances are that the stresses of lockdown have not made this easier over the past few months. But if you’re feeling up to it, you might find that doing some CPD from home could be beneficial for you and your business.

Of course, you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself to be productive during this time. Lockdown is hugely stressful for all sorts of reasons, and there’s no need to add to your mental load unnecessarily. It’s essential that you take care of yourself first and give yourself a break if you need it!

However, if you do feel up to the challenge, you may find working on your CPD really valuable. Perhaps you don’t have as much to do right now and you’re in need of a distraction or something to give structure to your days. Or maybe you’re keen to feel that you’re still making progress with your business, even if your normal workload has changed. Whatever inspires you, here is our guide to doing CPD from home.

Make a plan

The most effective way to carry out CPD is first to make a plan – this will keep you on track and ensure you’re focusing on the areas that will make the most difference to you. Here are a few questions to ask when building your plan:

  • What do you currently do? List your current jobs and note down what you’re best at and what you’re worst at. Are there any skills you need to improve?
  • What are your short-term goals? If there are things you want to achieve in the next year or two, think about what training you can start now to help you get there.
  • What are your long-term goals? Consider your biggest dreams for the future of your business, and then break them down into the steps you will need to take to achieve them. If there are lots of steps, don’t be daunted – just focus on what you need to do first; the rest will come later.

Use online training

There are countless online resources you can use for training and CPD. Here are a few good places to start your search:

  • OpenLearn: This is a hub for free online training provided by the Open University. It covers a wide range of subjects, but the courses in money and business will probably be most useful for business owners. The website tells you the number of hours and the level of difficulty for each course, so you can easily pick one that fits your needs.
  • Skillshare: This is another platform for online courses, but it does require a paid subscription. Again, there are plenty of business and entrepreneurship courses to choose from, and there is also Skillshare for Teams, which will let you build custom training programmes for your employees.
  • Subject-specific training: To find subject-specific training for your area of business, start by looking at the official organisations or leading companies in your field – do they offer online courses that will fill a gap in your knowledge? A quick internet search should bring up even more training options, and you can check out the course descriptions and reviews to find the best one for you.

Attend online conferences

Although most professional conferences have been cancelled, a number of ambitious organisers have taken their events online, so if there’s an event you usually attend in person, look it up to see whether it’s holding an online alternative this year. You could also sign up for conferences that you’re never been able to go to before, either because they’re too far away or because they have a limited number of tickets, so take your search global and see which conferences you can attend from the comfort of your own home!

Keep records

Whatever you decide to do, you should keep a record of it so you will be able to look back and see what you achieved during this time. Not only is this very satisfying, it will also help you to continue to plan your CPD in the future. Make a note of what you did and when, how many hours it took, who the organiser was and the key things you learned.


If you would like someone to help with the day-to-day running of your business while you focus on your CPD, Get Ahead VA can help. We offer services including telephone answering, administration and email management to keep your business running smoothly. To find out how we can help, please give Get Ahead VA a call on 01483 332220 or email us at office@getaheadva.com. We pride ourselves on being the staff you don’t see, but the difference you do.

Protect your back health while working at home

Lockdown has forced thousands of people to start working from home, and for many of us this has meant swapping the desk and office chair for a corner of the kitchen table or a spot on the sofa. But if you’re finding that your new working situation is taking its toll on your back, you’re not alone – a poor home office setup can cause all kinds of discomfort and back pain.

Since it looks like we’ll be in lockdown for some time to come, it’s important to start looking after your back now, to prevent bigger problems down the line. So, here are 4 key ways you can protect your back health while working from home!

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What I’ve learnt from starting a business… in the midst of a global pandemic!

So, it’s October of 2019, when I realise the dawn of a new decade is approaching – and 2020 would mark the 10-year anniversary of working for the same company. It really got me thinking; do I want to be here, doing this for another 10 years?   The answer was no, so I did something about it.  For me, this was a huge leap of faith.  I’ve worked in the media industry for my whole career since I was 18.  It’s all I’ve ever known and those 20 years (OMG!) – as clichéd as it sounds- have gone by in a flash.

I started to build the foundations for Get Ahead VA – West Surrey in Jan 2020. Things were really starting to pick up and I was excited about where things were going when…BAM!  The covid-19 pandemic hit, business shut down and the world felt like it was stopping. 

Now, we’re five weeks (I think!) into the lockdown and although times are undeniably tough for a lot of people, I feel much more positive and am still glad I made the leap to work for myself.  This is what I’ve learnt…

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How to onboard a new VA

Amanda Johnson, business coach, mentor and trainer, is bringing us her advice about how to onboard a new virtual assistant in your business. Her award-winning VA business, VACT, was established in 2003, and she has been in the industry since 2012, so she has plenty of great advice to share!

I love helping business owners find virtual assistants (VAs), and people often ask me how to onboard new VAs as smoothly and effectively as possible. In this blog I’ll look at the onboarding process from the business owner’s perspective and share my advice with you.

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Nurture your mental health at home

The best thing we can all do right now, to stay safe and slow the spread of coronavirus, is to stay indoors as much as possible. However, this can have an effect on our mental health – being unable to go outside, being isolated from friends and family, and feeling uncertain about what the next few months will hold. Indeed, a number of mental health charities have already reported that this crisis has led to an increase in cases of anxiety.*

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to protect and nurture your mental health during this time. Here are 5 key things you can do to stay happy and mentally healthy during lockdown – all without leaving the house!

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Continuity, reassurance and value for money – why savvy business owners repurpose their content

A little while ago, we were invited to a celebration lunch with one of our clients. During the lunch, the company’s marketing manager told us she had been approached by the Sunday Telegraph who wanted to do a piece about them. The marketing manager was delighted that the VAs had created such a wealth of blogs and factsheets for her to draw on – all she had to do was copy and paste the right paragraphs and send them off to the journalist. We were delighted too – it’s this kind of repurposing that makes content marketing great value for money, as well as empowering our clients to take their own action.

Even if you haven’t been approached by a Sunday paper (!) it’s still a great idea to repurpose your blogs, factsheets, ebooks and social media posts.

Here are some of our favourite ideas:

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