The findings come from Time Etc, a digital network that provides virtual assistants to business leaders across the UK.
While you may think it’s all meetings, lunches and travel arrangements to take care of, some of the tasks PAs are given are much more intimate.
At this point you’re likely thinking:
(A) Am I guilty of palming off barking mad jobs to my assistant?
(B) Excellent, what can I get away with?
(C) I wish I had an assistant.
Arguably the most preposterous – and convoluted – request, one PA admitted the boss asked for them to break up with his son’s girlfriend because he was too cowardly to do so himself.
Elsewhere, another assistant was called upon to manage “light” social media for a client, but found they were expected to piece together a “dance track”. Presumably they got away with a download of Calvin Harris’ latest track.
Moving into niche territory, one animal-loving exec demanded a complete list of all US zoos and wildlife centres that house sloths.
But, with the UK-US special relationship appearing on the list again, an American bride planning a British wedding asked a PA to complete some very, very specific food-based research. They were charged with discovering all UK suppliers of canned pumpkin – because pumpkin pie was on the menu for the wedding reception, obviously.
That’s not all though. The brief specified finding a recipe, how many pies (and cans of pumpkin) would feed 70 guests, with a minimum of five suppliers. And there’s more – the task also meant creating a spreadsheet providing a breakdown of can costs, delivery fees and links to products.
You’d probably have to just quit if that fell into your lap, let’s be honest.
On the fashion side of things, an assistant working on behalf of a retailer was asked to create descriptions to lingerie on sale, while another was asked to comb through Vogue to find clothing ideas for the client’s wife and daughters.
It’s also common for assistants to complain on behalf of clients, with rants about everything from food poisoning to dodgy dry cleaning.
Richard Branson’s former executive assistant of 32 years, Penni Pike, can now be found mentoring Time Etc’s assistants.
She recalled her own bizarre experience with Branson: “One of the most memorable tasks I was given was to leap out of a helicopter carrying Richard and I in order to read road signs for the pilot who had forgotten his map.
“The best thing about the job was the variety – turning up for work and thinking you were going to be filing and, before you knew it, you were helping with the launch of a hot air balloon. Great assistants expect to take on all sorts of jobs.”
Pike added that assistants are essential for leaders to thrive: “People forget that assistants aren’t just hired to help with work-related tasks, because it’s the life admin that distracts from running your business or doing your day job.”
By Zen Terrelonge
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