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PAs declare war on VAs: secretaries risk being replaced by “virtual assistants” due to WFH

Personal assistants have declared war on virtual assistants, fearing they will be replaced by them due to the new work of home cultivation.

Some MAs are becoming self-employed and starting their own businesses after a bloodbath of jobs hit the industry during the pandemic.

But others are turning into virtual assistants – where they work for a client remotely and don’t walk into their offices – because they say senior executives can’t function without them.

There are fears that PAs will become redundant due to the Covid crisis, as the role “may not be needed in the same way anymore.”

Earlier this week, it emerged that more than 500 Deloitte secretaries had been told their jobs were in jeopardy.

The bomb came after 20,000 employees were told they could choose to work from home, office, or a mix of the two starting on “Freedom Day” on July 19.

Lucy everett

Some MAs are becoming self-employed and starting their own businesses after a bloodbath of jobs hit the industry during the pandemic. Left: Lily Shippen, who runs a recruiting department for medical assistants. Right: Lucy Everett

Kate Chastey, director of The Passionate PA, said many people are leaving their desks to become virtual assistants or become self-employed.

But she warned that “their success rate is very low” and many return to work “as soon as they find something suitable”, which is often within months.

The PA, who started as a freelance writer over a decade ago, added, “They don’t start out as a business, just trying to fill their time and make ends meet.”

She admitted that the Covid crisis had changed the role of the personal assistant but said they had become “even more important” during the pandemic,

Ms Chastey said: “The entrepreneur has had more time with reduced travel etc., but most have worked even harder to keep their business going over the past 18 months.

“This means that their PA’s business support has been even more vital, as a great PA will do so much more than manage meetings, manage agendas and HR matters. “

She said there are apps and ways to outsource receptionist and secretarial work at a fraction of the cost of a full-time personal assistant.

But she added, “Our leading corporate clients always want their executive-level PA support to be delivered by a real person, with a real personality – ready and willing to meet face to face when the time is right. . “

Kate Chastey (pictured), director of The Passionate PA, said many people are leaving their desks to become virtual assistants or become self-employed.

Kate Chastey (pictured), director of The Passionate PA, said many people are leaving their desks to become virtual assistants or become self-employed.

Lily Shippen, who runs a recruiting service for MAs, said she has noticed many in her profession move to freelancers.

She continued: “There were a lot of jobs during Covid. But I don’t think that’s where the role goes.

“The role grows year by year, more strategically than traditional roles. “

But Rosemary Parr, former executive assistant to BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, said she was concerned about developments in the industry.

She said: “Due to Covid there may be some industries where there is a reduction in administrative staff.

But Rosemary Parr (pictured), former executive assistant to BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, said she was concerned about developments in the industry.

But Rosemary Parr (pictured), former executive assistant to BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, said she was concerned about developments in the industry.

“However, no senior executive can do their job to the best of their ability without an effective EA / PA to support them.

“EAs and PAs relieve pressure, multitask, become software and application experts, implement time-saving structures, and can make their executives 40-50% more efficient. “

She added: “Thanks to Covid, many of them I have trained tell them that they have been given additional responsibilities, are handling reduced office staff and are working from home schedules and facilities management. of Covid.

“The role is evolving and evolving towards management, with 50% of the profession now graduating. As a profession, they will never be eliminated.

Still, a senior assistant at a healthcare company, who asked not to be named, said she found her job “extremely boring” during the pandemic, so she started her own business.

She said it started off very busy as she helped intensive care units and doctors across the country, but her job dried up and became “extremely quiet.”

She said: ‘During the first few months of Covid, as our clinicians were busy redeploying to intensive care and writing tips on Covid for doctors across the country, I was pretty busy supporting them.

“And then things got extremely calm. Since January, I have maybe a handful of tasks to do each week. It is extremely boring.

“One day last week, I even forgot to log in in the morning – yes, I forgot I had a job – and no one even noticed.

“I wanted something to do so badly that I started my own business. I spend about half an hour doing PA related tasks every day and the rest of the time I’m an entrepreneur. A weird situation, but I have to put myself forward.

Although PAs support the need for their jobs, large companies appear to be moving away from the traditional personal assistant (file photo)

Although PAs support the need for their jobs, large companies appear to be moving away from the traditional personal assistant (file photo)

And Lucy Everett, a former City of London EA who created Virtually Supported, has taken a similar step.

She said: “Some people think PAs and EAs are just an administrative support role.

“But my experience as an EA in the city before starting my business was much more than that.

“Most EAs are the right person for the executive at the board level they support. They are problem-solving experts who can organize multiple calendars, across a range of time zones without any hassle.

“They sit on board meetings with top executives and learn to understand how to run a large company and what goes into strategic decisions.”

Although PAs support the need for their jobs, large companies seem to be moving away from the traditional personal assistant.

More than 500 Deloitte secretaries were told their jobs were in jeopardy after 20,000 employees were told they could choose to work from home.

Large companies appear to be adopting ‘hybrid models’ for personnel, which will accelerate the digitization of personnel departments, meaning fewer PAs might be needed.

Deloitte plans to lay off at least a third of secretarial staff, saving them £ 4million a year.

Deloitte plans to lay off at least a third of secretarial staff, saving them £ 4million per year (file photo)

Deloitte plans to lay off at least a third of secretarial staff, saving them £ 4million per year (file photo)

Boris Johnson is ready to ditch 'work from home' guidelines - but it will be up to employers and their staff to decide when workers return to their desks (file photo)

Boris Johnson is ready to ditch ‘work from home’ guidelines – but it will be up to employers and their staff to decide when workers return to their desks (file photo)

Instead, there would be “pools” of secretaries that staff could use – only senior managers keeping personal PAs.

Official guidelines telling people to “work from home if you can” will be scrapped on July 19 in England.

But it will be up to employers and their staff to decide whether to return to their desks.

Deloitte is the latest of several large companies to announce plans for hybrid labor.

A spokesperson said: “We are consulting on proposed changes to executive assistant roles at Deloitte, which unfortunately could lead to layoffs.

“We know this will be difficult news for those affected and we support our people during this process.”

It follows Asda, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC Banks, as well as call center operator Capita and the owner of British Gas Centrica.

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