(SPOT.ph) Trading his barista apron for a laptop, Paulo Barcos now works as a virtual assistant from night to day after joining the Great Resignation in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in search of more flexibility and higher pay.
The 26-year-old answers to clients in the U.S. from the comfort and safety of his home south of Metro Manila, free from the fear of catching COVID-19 from random customers he used to interact with on a daily basis.
"My previous work requires constant direct contact with people that come in and out. And during that time, we have received many scares because of the constant news of outbreaks, new variants, and new protocols," Barcos told reportr.
Why become a virtual assistant?
The depressing state of the pandemic at the end of 2020 was the catalyst that pushed Barcos to take a leap of faith and shift to a career he described he's "fairly new at."
Over half of Filipino employees or 51% prefer to keep working from home (WFH) or a remote work setup even as fewer COVID cases allow the economy to cautiously reopen after two years of virus restrictions, according to industry tracker JobStreet.
Virtual assistant roles are among the top choices for Filipinos looking for a permanent WFH setup along with encoder, engineer, and office staff roles, JobStreet added.
"Working from home saves me a lot of time, energy, and of course money because I don’t have to commute anymore to my workplace," Barcos said.
A typical work day for a virtual assistant
For over a year now, a typical workday for a virtual assistant like Barcos starts at 8 p.m. and ends at 4 a.m. from Monday to Friday since his client is based in America where daytime means nighttime in the Philippines.
Handling social media accounts, video and graphics editing make up the most of Barcos' working time.
"I usually start by checking the analytics and performance of the posts I made previously. Next, I edit and schedule the next content at the same time I have to re-strategize if some of the previous posts are not performing well [on social media]. If this happens, I have to go back to the drawing board and research current trends," he said, noting that creativity is the major challenge for his new line of work.
Sometimes, Barcos said he has to attend virtual meetings with his clients for collaboration and reviews of his work.
"Every day’s a struggle to be creative and think outside of the box. And at the same time, I have to stick to my client’s brand," he said.
Pros and cons of the virtual assistant life
Like any job, being a virtual assistant has its own pros and cons. For Barcos, the biggest benefit is saying goodbye to the horrendous commute and the flexibility that comes with the job.
"Commuting was such a hassle back then--worrying about the rush hour, traffic, going to work, waiting in long lines in bus terminals, and having to deal with crowded places, which wasn’t a big deal back then before the pandemic, but now it is," he said.
In terms of benefits given out by most Philippine companies to their employees, Barcos said he receives the same such as paid time offs, health benefits, and monetary incentives.
"I’m thankful to have a client that is very generous and considerate when it comes to monetary incentives," he said.
"It actually helped me a lot in terms of expenses. I was able to pay my bills on time, contribute to my family’s expenses more, and I still have enough money to put into my savings," he added.
He also enjoys that he now gets to spend more time with friends and family since he no longer feels the need to take extra time to rest due to the weary commute.
"In my previous work, my commute and rest take a lot of my time instead of being with them," he said.
However, working from home for over a year now has blurred the lines between Barcos' "workplace" and "safe space" since he now does both hustle and play in his bedroom.
"Before working from home, I consider my bedroom to be a safe space for me to rest, play video games, and not think about work duties and responsibilities. But now, since my workspace is located in my bedroom too, my bedroom is no longer a safe space but is now a workplace," he said noting that he sometimes works outside of his room for a change of pace.
Barcos also recalled having to borrow money while he was starting out to get all of his needed equipment in order.
"When I was just starting, I had to borrow money just to get my entire equipment ready, and these include requiring having a backup laptop or pc, and investing in backup generators," he added.
Looking forward, Barcos said he sees himself pursuing a WFH career in the long run but is not closing his doors to other work setups.
"I can see myself continuing my WFH career since I’m now comfortable and invested enough for my setup. But I do eventually want to go back working at a normal workplace outside my home, but I know it will be a while before I decide on this since I still consider myself new to the whole virtual work setup," he said.
"I’m still improving my editing skills along the way, and I’m still saving money for my future plans," he added.