How to adapt, when business as usual becomes business as unusual

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With the market evolving and adapting during this critical time, many of us (including myself) have been acclimatising as working from home becomes the new norm that we now know.

As an EA or PA, working from home and providing a high level of support to your stakeholder, can be quite the challenge.

Understandably, if you have never worked remotely or virtually before it may be hard to know how to manage your day, juggle all your responsibilities and how to keep a solid work-life balance.

Over the weekend, I spoke with a senior EA that is currently doing all of the above. Meghan started her position as EA to CEO in March and has quickly needed to adapt her working style from working and supporting her stakeholder in the office to virtually.

First of all, how are you? And how are you finding life during this lockdown period?

Great thank you! Generally speaking, I am a positive person. Having just moved over from Australia to the UK and lockdown proceeding a month after my arrival, it has been strange however feel as though I have settled quite easily given the circumstances.

How have you adjusted to working from home?

Change is inevitable, especially as an EA. Being open to change has allowed me to adapt in my working style quite well!

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

We tend to work more when working from home, and our executives know we have our phones and emails on us at all times! If you are anything like me, you say yes to everything, so it’s important to balance time for yourself too. My CEO is currently based in another time zone and will be for the foreseeable future, so we have set “time” boundaries (of course this can vary). I manage my own time by looking at my CEO’s week/day prior to the next, getting up early and going for a run to clear my mind before starting the day to ensure I have at least an hour to myself and some time outdoors!

How do you avoid miscommunication and ensure everyone stays connected?

Communication can be lost easily via email at the best of times. Given everyone is communicating either by phone or email at the moment, it’s important to keep extra track of comms. If you are uncertain, always ask the question – as EA’s/PA’s, I believe we all have gut feelings when it comes to this or if we believe something is missing, follow that feeing! In terms of staying connected, we have daily team catch up’s and a group WhatsApp. It is extremely important to stay connected at this time.

How does working remotely effect your ability to persuade and influence your stakeholder?

It’s about taking control, being informative but not too pushy and working out how best your executive works – if that means changing your communication style to suit them, do it! It will support you in many ways and you will get the best out of them too!

How have you felt the business have been able to drive cultural change remotely?

There is much uncertainty in the world at the moment, and our business has reacted as best as possible. So much so that I believe we are checking in on each other more than we had prior, this is paramount to engage staff which I believe is part of our roles as EA’s/PA’s too.

What attributes are vital for productive working at home?

Being pro-active, positive and easily adaptable to change.

How have you created new efficiencies and processes in line with virtual working?

We host a large amount of in person workshops for our clients. Our business had no relevant platforms installed to present by virtual means. I am now currently researching and implementing Zoom and Miro into the company, allowing us to continue to support our clients and work around the current crisis in an effective manner.

What has been the biggest challenge since adapting your support to the CEO from the office to working from home?

For me, a strong relationship between executive and EA is paramount. Considering I had just started my role as we went into lockdown, and my executive flew out of the country, we had minimal time together to establish our working relationship. We have overcome this by daily conversations – both on a personal and business perspective. This allows me to also gain greater exposure as to how my CEO works in all environments. Executives can also tend to lose track of where they are up to, I text (yes, text! This is the best way to get him to respond) my CEO a list of important items/topics to be discussed at the start and end of each day. This not only helps him, but me too!

Any tips, words of wisdom you can share with other PAs/EAs who have found themselves in a similar situation?

Always be available (within reason), communication is key, read your executive’s inbox/sent items/deleted items, and ask questions where necessary! Find time for yourself and manage your diary just as well as you would your executives. Be open to change and exploring new ways of working.

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