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Personal Assistants in 2020: How Has Your Role Evolved?

Working life has changed beyond recognition in the last few months and we’ve been reaching out to our incredible candidates to understand more about the impact on the day to day realities of a Personal Assistant. Take a read of our findings on what the PA role looks like today. We would love to hear from you too! What are the changes to your PA duties, responsibilities and methods of working?

We’re not going to be winning any medals for pointing out that working life has changed beyond recognition in the last few months! I for one, cannot remember the last time I wore anything other than leggings and slippers on my bottom half. Wardrobe aside, what are the changes to your duties, responsibilities and methods of working? I’m sure we are all sorely missing that face-to-face giggle over the coffee machine with a much-loved colleague, or that favourite Friday lunchtime burrito in a sunny square. But, are there any positive outcomes to your new way of working?

Is performing some of your duties swifter or more cumbersome? We have spoken to our candidates old and new across different industries, to share their thoughts. Incredibly sadly we are hearing daily stories of furlough, loss of workloads and redundancies, but we have also heard from candidates within FMCG, tech and areas within financial services and law where the workload has really stepped up. Has the role of Personal Assistant changed in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic? If so, how? The changes to the skillset required is largely in line with how the PA profession has been evolving over the last few years. Those PAs who are really thriving in this new remote working world, are the ones who demonstrate:

Strong communication skills

An embrace of new technologies

Adaptability and openness to creative ways of working

Strategic problem solving

Dependability / trustworthiness

Self-motivation and a strong sense of initiative

All qualities that we have heard more and more on the hiring wish lists of our loyal clients in recent years.

The traditional role of a PA (and I think a lot of people’s mistaken understanding of the current profession!) was the dictation taking, correspondence drafting secretary who was dictated to, but whose opinion was rarely sought. The role had a clear and simple function: to provide secretarial support to directors or executives; booking meetings on request, minute taking, filing, managing paper correspondence, taking telephone messages etc. etc.

Although some PA roles are undoubtedly still centred around core secretarial skills, at our London based PA/EA recruitment agency we have seen that through the advancement of new technologies, and the evolution of new working environments, the contemporary PA role has a much wider and more diverse set of requirements.

How have technological advancements affected the Personal Assistant role?

It goes without saying that technology has had a hugely significant impact on the PA role over the last 20 years. All that time PAs would dedicate to handwriting in a paper diary, to photocopying, filing and archiving, typing letters on a typewriter and posting them in the snail mail, has been alleviated.

Instead, PAs find themselves intelligently managing their principals’ email inboxes: they are trusted to react to, file and escalate 100s of emails as appropriate.

As the pace of business has moved that much faster and global travel has made the world so much more accessible, diary management has also become much more strategic: it is based around intelligent problem solving, a thorough knowledge of your principals’ commercial priorities, and a great ability for relationship management when tactfully gatekeeping, postponing or cancelling meetings.

Today’s PAs are relied upon by their executives not just for admin support, but also for their technical abilities, their counsel on team/ company culture, their strategic input, and sometimes also their research skills or project management experience as well.

But how have the day-to-day tasks of a PA changed during lockdown?

A survey of a handful of candidates across varying industries has shown that with the working-from-home set up in full swing, any day-to-day office management or facilities administration has largely subsided whilst offices are temporarily closed. Obviously global travel arrangements have also been put largely on hold, but other core PA tasks remain key:

Diary management


Team building

Inbox management

Expense Tracking

Client management

Document management

The key difference is the way in which these tasks are carried out and without that face-to-face office contact with your principal, a great willingness to embrace technology, the ability to communicate brilliantly on screen calls and via email, and an extra enthusiasm for building morale and gluing the team as well as problem solving are all vital to get the job done.

The multifaceted contemporary PA role is ever-changing and ever-stimulating. The current pandemic has represented only the most recent manifestation of how adaptability, initiative, motivation, great communication skills and a flair for problem solving will really stand you in good stead to thrive as a top Personal Assistant.

We’re keen to hear about your experiences: how has your company been affected by Covid-19 and what’s been the affect on your role as a PA/EA?

Do drop us a line!

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