Confessions of a very untraditional PA!

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OK, so confession time… I have been a PA / EA now for around 12 years now which makes me feel a bit old but i’m not too old… 33 actually in case you wanted to know. Anyway, I digress. I have worked in many different industries and for men and woman (men are far easier to work with in my opinion) & I have never had any real complaints about my work and PA skills. But, sometimes, well a lot of the time, I do feel like a bit of charlatan… the reasons why are below, WARNING: if you are a very ‘Traditional’ by the book, prim and proper career PA, then please do not read on, as you are likely to have a panic attack! You have been warned.

So, this is how I work as a PA:

  • I don’t file anything… Not a thing, I don’t file paperwork or e-mails. I currently have 5,914 e-mails in my inbox and that is where they will stay, until I got forced into archiving, but I find it easier to work this way, I can find things much easier. If I file, I would forget where and what folder it was in etc… This works for me.
  • My desk is a total mess… paper piled up, not in any order, bosses old expenses in an envelope in that pile along with invoices that I need to sort, contracts that I have signed, it all just sits there, because I know that, that messy pile has everything I need and I just pick it up and go through it when I need to find something. I have post it notes dotted about all over, reminding me of things to do also, they are in pretty colours by the way, pink, purple etc.. not dull yellow!
  • I never write ‘To do Lists’ I can’t think of anything more dull than writing down all the things you need to do., I prefer to use my memory and just get on and do them one by one. Yes I set reminders in my outlook calendar sometimes if I think there is a bit too much to remember but I luckily have a great memory and so I don’t forget much. A To-Do list would stress me out by just looking at it.
  • The way I work with my e-mails on Outlook is this —> I have about 20 e-mails all open at the bottom of my outlook and then I close them once I have finished with that task, this then reminds me of what I need to do, so I suppose that is my to do list! (Any PA’s freaking out yet?!) 
  • I don’t make tea or coffee for my boss, bad PA I know… but he can make it himself, he never makes me tea or coffee so why should I. I am his PA not his minion! & yes of course I make it for his customer meetings, but I wouldn’t offer if he is sitting at his desk, unless I was making it for everyone.
  • I have never and will never suck up to my boss, or act any differently to who I am, to please him.My motto is always: Stay true to yourself, you can’t go wrong with this in my opinion.
  • I can never just do one job at a time and focus on it. I usually am doing about 4 different things at once, I know that is probably standard for a lot of PA’s but it is how I prefer to work. I get easily distracted.
  • I don’t colour code my calendar or do follow up flags on my e-mails either.
  • I talk a lot and laugh loudly and I swear…I would not be suited to very quiet corporate offices, but luckily I have always worked in fun laid back environments.
  • I don’t deal with structure and authority very well at all. I like flexibility and I have been fortunate enough to never have strict hours at work, so I can come and go when I please (within reason of course!) and work from home once or twice a week or when is needed, which is perfect for me. I don’t like to be chained to a desk and to be bossed about. Again, I am lucky to have a boss who says ‘sorry’, before asking me to do anything’ which I find quite funny! Maybe he is scared of me… ? Just to note: I am not scary at all!!

But…. having said all of the above, I think I am a great PA (you have to blow your own trumpet!) and… I have never been told otherwise & have always had great jobs and feedback from my bosses, so I say, whatever works for you. I know some would freak out with my way of working, but this is what helps me and I doubt I will change my ways now, well I know I won’t, I enjoy being in my organised chaos. I will never be a neat and tidy, prim and proper PA and I don’t think that is a bad thing, it has worked for me so far just fine and as the saying goes,  ‘If it ain’t broke…’

Oh and If my boss happens to be reading this… don’t panic, I know where your expenses are and they will be done on time…honest ;o) 

My Flexible friend

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What first springs to mind when I say the word ‘Flexibility’? Do you think of a yoga maybe or even a credit card with a flexible rate? I am having a guess though, that most of you don’t think of your workplace? As these two words don’t go together, work + flexible = ??

I for one think this sorely needs to change to make a happier workforce, as regimented hours and the feeling of being chained to desk, to me, feels old fashioned and wrong in this day and age. Most of us are given laptops and mobile phones so this means we can be mobile? 

I worked in a large corporate company for nearly 5 years, where flexibility was my best friend. Basically the rules were as long as the work is done and you do your core hours, they didn’t mind what time you got up and left.(within reason of course!) I had a mobile and a laptop, so the boss knew he could contact me at any time, which comes with the job of being a PA. But he knew that I sometimes wanted to beat the traffic so would often get up and leave any time from 4 to 4.45 and then I would just log on at home and carry on working if I needed. The same went for the mornings. If, sometimes you have one of those bad nights, you can’t sleep therefore your alarm going off in the morning fills you with dread, you just go in a bit later and no one would even bat an eyelid at this. The directors and my boss would soon know if the work wasn’t being done, so there is nowhere to hide in that respect. Obviously common sense comes into play here too. If you need to be in at a certain time for a meeting then obviously would be and same goes for if you are busy and need to stay at work to get things done for your boss etc.. you do. It is just nice to know, that you have the flexibility and choice as an option and to me, this makes me respect the company and the boss a lot more then them asking you to be chained to your desk until say, 5.30pm on the dot and this is something that fills me with dread!

I have worked at many places, where I have had to stay at my desk until a certain time and I have to say for me, it had been a bit soul destroying, having someone else govern my time for me, it just feels wrong, like you are in some kind of prison where you would be frowned upon if you even thought about getting up at 5.29pm or 4.59pm, it had to be on the dot. (kill me now!!)

In my opinion, I think more companies seriously need to look into giving people flexibility. Why do you think trains and tubes are so packed at rush hour? Because everyone has to be at their desks by 9am or 8.30am on the dot. Same goes with traffic, it is jammed because everyone is trying to get somewhere at the same time, hence gridlock! If more companies offered the choice like my old company, there would be a lot less stress and turnover of staff at companies, I am sure of it.

Obviously there needs to be some rules but if you did your core hours say, 37.5 hours a week, then what is the problem?

 Working from home is another sore point when it comes to most companies. It is the thing most people want to ask in interviews, but the thing that is never spoken about! With today’s modern technologies, why can’t more staff work from home when needed? I feel this comes down to a trust issue. But, as I said earlier, you would soon realise if the work wasn’t being done. Working from home for me, had its positives and negatives. The positives were, I could get up and go straight to work at 7 or 8am in my dressing gown, no make-up (glamour!) and not worry about the commute into work. If I had something very time- consuming to do, such as expenses, then, I would choose to do them on a work from home day, as I could concentrate and get it done without many interruptions from work colleagues. The only negative was for me, not having people contact, but I knew the next day I would be back in the office as normal, so it is nice to have the best of both worlds.

I also feel parents need to be given more flexibility too. One of my old colleagues had to come back full time to work as a PA, but the reason she could, was because the company were so good about her hours and when the kids got to school age, she was allowed to leave the office at 3pm and go and pick up her kids and then log on from home later in the evening and do her work. No wonder she stayed with the company and is still there 11 years later happy as larry! 

Maybe I have just been a bit spoilt and lucky, as now I have had a taste of freedom so to speak, so therefore, I never want to go back to the old ways, but it seems since I have been looking for a new job (I am looking due to the company re-locating) I have found that a lot of companies, have set hours with no flexibility, which is such a shame and it does puts me off, but I know, eventually I will probably have to accept a job and accept the fact that I may be stuck at a desk with set times and I will have to somehow try to deal with it! *Sad face*

Flexibility obviously can’t work in some jobs, I know, but I am speaking about office workers in general, as this is where I have worked for the last 12 years and I feel there needs to a big shift and a change, but I have no idea if it that will ever happen. I did read somewhere that eventually working from home will just be the norm as companies want to save as much money as possible on expensive offices space, so I can only hope that this ‘eventually’ comes quicker than we think!

What are your thoughts on this, do you agree with me, or are you happy doing set hours? Or, do you have flexibility and enjoy it like I have?

To be ‘Free as a bird’ … That is the aim, freedom and flexibility for me = Happy and content.Image