Who moved my stationery?

downloadStationery stealing and desktop disappearances a problem for over 60% of UK offices

Whether it’s belongings going walkabout at work or more serious cases of theft, missing items can cause chaos and frustration. It’s a common feeling, with over 60% of UK workers saying they’ve had things disappear from desks whilst at work, ranging from stationery stealing to phone chargers, paperwork, calculators and even gadgets going missing.

A study of 1000 UK workers was commissioned by Avery for Hands Off Week back in September and found that light-fingered colleagues aren’t the only reason for missing items. Lost property is a huge issue too, with almost half of Brits admitting to losing or leaving behind something important and never getting it back.

Avery’s Fiona Mills commented:

“Realising something important has been left behind or gone missing, especially at work, is frustrating at best and in the worst cases can actually affect a company’s ability to work effectively. In fact, 14% of the businesses we spoke to said important equipment or tools of the trade go missing several times a year. Yet there are some very simple steps businesses can take to help deter theft and improve the chances of lost property being returned. Labelling company property or displaying effective signage could help make all the difference.

Hands Off Week was introduced by Avery to raise awareness of these issues, through looking at both the light-hearted and the more serious side to lost property and missing possessions.”

There certainly is a serious side to things going missing; the Hands Off Week research revealed the average annual cost to businesses of theft and things going missing can be in the thousands. Worryingly, in the last year a quarter of UK businesses reported gadgets including laptops, mobile phones and tablets going missing or being stolen too. Proper labelling of possessions may be one solution with over half of respondents feeling that this can act as a deterrent when it comes to theft.

Some of the stranger items reported missing or stolen from UK workplaces included a shed, an office chair, toilet roll, a chainsaw, a stress ball and hairnets. Almost a third of people had also experienced food theft in the workplace, with items being taken from the fridge, their desks, lunch boxes or the company kitchen.

When it came to finding out who was behind office pilfering, of the businesses who had investigated the matter, middle ranking employees were the most likely culprits in almost a quarter of cases. This was followed by bosses who were found to be responsible in 17% of cases.

Have you ever had things go awol from your desk? Feel free to leave your comments below. 

The True Value of a PA/EA


By Sherri Eckworth


Sherri Eckworth has been a Senior Executive Assistant at TMW Unlimited since 2010. Sherri has worked across multiple industries and has been a PA at Board level for almost 20 years. Awarded SecsintheCity PA of the Year 2013 and shortlisted for Executive Magazine PA of the Year 2014. A regular top 30 member of Eventopedia’s PA Club Top 250 Power List and an enthusiastic supporter of the PA role.

A tough one to put in a few paragraphs but this is my take on a subject I feel very passionately about…the True Value of a PA/EA

Do you get maximum value from your PAs? Do you know how much additional value they can add to your business?

From a PA who’s been in the administrative support space for over twenty years, here’s a few reasons why I believe that we are a very valuable resource in business.

We make amazing Project Managers – it’s what we do best. Whether organizing an event or getting ‘impossibly difficult to pin down’ people in a room together, we make it happen. Our organisational skills give us a head start when it comes to managing projects from inception to completion. Our ability not to let anything drop ensures we’ll be ‘on it’ all the way through and because we’re used to changing environments, we won’t be phased if something needs to be rerouted.

We make great Facilitators – and I don’t just mean managing meetings to run on time! Yes we can take the notes, but we follow up on actions, understand the processes and know who the key stakeholders are. We’re enthusiastic and can create a healthy atmosphere around introducing change. For planning ‘away days’, we’ll also ensure you get the best venue at the best price too!

We are confidential sounding boards –people talk to us about their concerns and we know when to listen and when to feedback. We’re trusted by our colleagues as they know we deliver their messages in the right way.

We’re calm gatekeepers whilst being great ambassadors for our teams. We will never let anyone down. As much as we’d like to clone our bosses, we know we can’t, so we prioritise their time in a way that works best for all. Everyone needs to feel important and valued and understanding that is key.

We’re the best jugglers! From the minute we arrive in the office, we’re asked what feels like a hundred questions a minute. We’re fielding calls, managing multiple events, answering emails, making last minute changes to the diaries, checking out meeting rooms, liaising with other departments and normally all whilst preparing relevant paperwork for the day.

We’ve worked across many industries – we’ve shown curiosity about our surroundings and learned a lot about business. Transferable skills give us great advantages and crossing industries keeps us refreshed and enthused.

We’re ‘people’ people – we’re perceptive and knowledgeable when it comes to others. We often see potential issues before they become problematic and we know who may need a little extra help.

And of course there’s lots more – but I think that’s a great start.  A ‘personal assistant’ is so much more than the title suggests, often working for more than one person, acting as a contact point for the wider business and generally being pulled in many directions at once. A reliable, trustworthy, grounded PA is well worth your time and investment – with development, training and encouragement, we can really demonstrate our true value.

#MondayMotivation @harmonyhelen


What motivates you?

“My PA motivation is to support the amazing #wildlife #charity @MarwellWildlife & be a great ambassador @TheGlobalPA” 

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Helen Rees, PA to Chief Executive of Marwell Wildlife

Helen is an award-winning PA at Executive level with over 20 years’​ experience, including PA support at Chief Executive, Director and Board level, conference & event management, training, intranet development, etc in a variety of sectors including charity (zoo/leisure attraction), public sector arts & culture, and external audit (particularly NHS). She is also a degree-educated musician, a classically-trained pianist/flautist and spent five years as keyboardist & backing vocalist with a functions band – playing corporate gigs, weddings etc. She is actively involved with a number of other musical projects including composing/arranging, vocal & choral groups etc., and am a Trustee for young people’s music charity Winnall Rock School.

Career Progression for PAs & EAs


By Vivian Mensah

Vivien  has 18 years’ experience in the admin profession.  She began her career as a receptionist at Astra Zeneca PLC, a FTSE 100 Biopharmaceuticals company where she proceeded to hold Senior PA and Project Co-ordinater roles and is currently EA to the EVP there.  She is committed and passionate about her role as an EA who champions and advocates the value and impact the PA role brings to the organisation, team and individuals and was responsible for introducing lunch and learn sessions for the PAs at AstraZeneca. 

Career progression – Where do I start?

How many of us in the admin community have had some form of performance management engagement this year, last year or never – before you answer bear in mind that this can be classified as any of the following: Performance planning, Performance coaching or Performance problems.

We should all have a performance plan – whether or not it states “I want to remain in this position/post for the rest of my career” or “I want to become the CEO in 5 years” – that can be referred too, rewritten, amended, adjusted and referred to.

Many of us want to have longevity in the admin profession, we want to progress as far as our skills, capabilities, personality and leadership traits will take us. We have ambition and we have aspirations.

So, does the below sound familiar?

Admin: ‘I would like to speak to you about my career progression’.

Manager: ‘Career progression? But you are an admin’.

Career progression for admin professionals is available, achievable and deserved but it is up to you to remain focused, work hard and try to excel in everything that you. Always try your hardest and strive for success. If this is not recognised in your current role, it could happen in your next – be open minded and look to create those opportunities.  You may need to move teams/departments/organisations to realise your full potential.  You need to prioritise what is important to you, is it the career satisfaction?  Enjoyment?  Challenge? If you simply sit and wait for someone to take notice and offer you something better/a step up or put you forward for that EA/project management position that you have always then you may be waiting a long time.

There are many paths that we can take to avoid that but like most things sometimes it may take time, could get bumpy along the way and not always straight forward.

It’s not always easy to bring up the subject of career progression topic but a great opportunity to seize for that is your mid-year or year-end appraisal. I worry about two things here: that some of you may not even have appraisals or having to wait half or a full year to talk about investing in yourself which in turn will be beneficial to the organisation in so many ways – a motivated, highly-engaged employee who is likely to stay committed within the organisation.

For your first of meetings I would suggest the following:

Preparation, preparation, preparation. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of preparing for your meetings. Sometimes you only get one chance, so make it count!

Goals and Objectives:

Write down your goals and objectives as these are fundamental to accomplishing what you need to. Goals are long term aims that you want to accomplish and objectives are measurable, concrete and tangible.

Knowledge is Power:

You must become an expert in your field, e.g.progressing from a PA to an EA
Find out all is there is to know about an EA – how does the role differ to the role of a PA
What aspects of the role interests you? What are some of the challenges you expect to face in the role?

Ask if you can shadow an EA for a couple of hours or a day?

Ask an existing EA in your organisation or network to mentor you.

Schedule sufficient meeting time and advise your manager in advance of the topics and content you would like to discuss this with her/him.

Planning is essential to improve the odds of a successful outcome so go prepared – research relevant course/mentorship schemes/internships/in-house training etc.

Ensure that you have an open, honest and realistic discussion about your career progression because this might be your only shot in a long time to discuss training courses/mentorship etc.

Follow ups:
So you have had the discussion and you have the green light (yippee) to enrol on some courses/mentorship schemes.  This is really great news! It demonstrates that your manager believes in you and is investing time and money in you – Yes! You! Repay the compliment by scheduling regular update meetings to keep your manager up to date with your progress, experiences and whether it meets the objectives.

Adding Value as a PA/EA


By Amy Marsden

Amy is a PA with over 8 years’ experience and is currently PA to Hank Uberoi, CEO of Earthport, an international cross border payments company with its headquarters in London. Prior to that she was assistant to Seth Berman, London head of US based digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg, and cross-bench peer Lord Nicholas Stern of Brentford. 

How PA’s and EA’s can directly contribute to the success of their employer

Employers today are becoming increasingly demanding of their employees, and assistants are no exception. We are expected to arrive ready to hit the ground running, armed with both the experience and knowledge required to carry out any task assigned to us, capable of taking on a high workload and battling intense office hours. Yet, our role is commonly perceived as a “luxury” by budget conscious HR departments with PA’s/EA’s being reserved for those at the top of a company’s hierarchy. There is no better justification for your position within a company than your ability to “add value” to the business you work for and contribute to the success of your employer.

Adding value for an assistant can be defined as the contribution you make outside of your  job description, the action you take which will directly affect the progress of a business and help it move forward, and the additional work you undertake to support the achievement of the “bigger picture”. Here are three simple suggestions of how you can work towards adding value:

  1. Support business development– the route to revenue

A little research can go a long way; get to know your sector and be quick to spot important press items such as the news of mergers, important hires, announcements, and upcoming conference dates etc. Set up Google alerts for key industry words and the name of your company. Read newspapers, industry publications, online articles, and circulate any interesting developments within your team or share with your boss – they may be able to grab an opportunity to sell, present their services, or gain a business contact based on the information you have provided.

Attend PA/EA events; the new friend you make over drinks may be the PA to the Head of that new start-up your boss has been keen to meet with. Leverage your network of contacts, and develop a social media presence to expand it.

Challenge yourself to learn more; are you aware of who your competitors are? Do you understand the different functions/departments within your company? Do you know what your service/product is? Did your boss follow up with the CEO he met at that conference last week? Can you do a little research on them before he/she does?

  1. Review existing processes and procedures – streamline for success

“Tidying up” or essential maintenance can improve our work efficiency and how well we serve our customers/clients/staff. Take a little time to assess what works well in your business and what doesn’t ; perhaps take the initiative to introduce or implement change in one of these areas? This could be something as small as creating a new PowerPoint template, drawing up an event’s check list or making a Gantt chart for the team project you are working on to keep deadlines in check. It could also be a larger action such as meeting with a new travel provider, arranging a new conference room booking system or creating a user guide for new starters.

Saving time and money are at top priorities for businesses in 2015. Although you may not have access to an overview of spending or be a budget holder,you could propose a new supplier for something simple like business cards or stationery, researching discount codes and promotions. If you do have access to figures, analyse average spends on travel, hotel bookings and catering; are there cheaper, faster or more innovative alternatives that can cater to your business?

  1. Get involved in other areas – go the extra mile

Are you an expert at PowerPoint, Photoshop, or Salesforce? Could you spare some of your down time to utilise those skills and support the marketing team in an area where they are under staffed? Would you like to use that degree in Media & Publishing you gained at University? Could you share your knowledge and offer to train a colleague to use a program or tool you are familiar with? Businesses often spend time and money hiring or training staff to cater to evolving business needs. If you are able to take the chance to break routine and blur the lines of your job description for the success of the wider business, do so.

You may be particularly passionate about the environment, or the “go to” person for social events, always the first to know about that amazing new restaurant that just opened in the city. Why not develop yourself within office hours by doing something you enjoy? Take the lead on a new project such as recycling; reducing waste, saving money and motivating others to amend their habits. Arrange regular team drinks, “lunch & learns”, or put yourself forward to help organise the next summer party. This will help motivate your colleagues and cultivate team spirit which directly affects morale and helps foster a collaborative culture.