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JANUARY 2013 ALSO INSIDE: Booking events


V I R T U A L LY A REALITY? We look at the growing popularity of the virtual assistant

New year wardrobe


Detox snacks



Well, I can hardly believe it’s over already, but here we are in January again, about to break all those new year’s resolutions. If your resolution is to kick-start your freelance career as a virtual assistant, turn to Jodie Taylor’s article for some tips. Does the new year for you mean cracking on with booking the next 12 months of meetings and events? Turn to our article on booking events for some top advice from Leeds Venues. Feeling groggy after all those festive treats? Try a refreshing watercress and mint soup followed by some superfruit to cancel out all those mince pies and post-dinner sherries.

UPDATE Ethnic minority women suffering discrimination from employers SAY WHAT?! Telling your colleague to “shhh!” without offending

ON THE JOB JOB NEWS What’s your email personality? Are you a ‘filer’, a ‘hoarder’ or a ‘respondent’? BOOKING EVENTS Got a whole year of events to organise? Look no further VIRTUAL ASSISTANCE Is remote working the future for PAs? DAY IN THE DIARY ‘Business horse whisperer’ Julia Felton gives us the lowdown

LUNCH BREAK BREAKTIME Treat yourself to a trip to Thermae Spa in Bath OLE LOVES These are a few of our favourite things OFFICE CATWALK New year, new you editor

account executive

managing editor




senior account manager





Man attempts multitasking A Polish man is regretting trying to impress his wife by doing the housework – after ironing his face when the phone rang. Tomas Paczkowski, 32, from Elbag, was determined to show wife Lila that he was just as good around the home as she is. “I decided to do the ironing while she was out at work, just to prove a point,” he explained. “Women are always going on about multitasking, so I set up the iron, opened a beer and put the boxing on the telly. “Trouble was, I got so involved in the boxing that I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing. “So when the phone rang I picked up the iron by mistake and pressed it to my ear. The pain was incredible.” He added insult to injury when he went to put cold water on the burn – and walked into the bathroom door. “That gave me a black eye so now I look more like I’ve been in a boxing match instead of just watching one,” he added. Medics say he will make a full recovery but Paczkowski says he’s off housework for good. Source: Orange News

Eating more chocolate improves a nation’s chances of producing Nobel Prize winners, a recent study suggests. Franz Messerli of Columbia University, the author of the study, started wondering about the power of chocolate after reading that cocoa was good for you. One paper suggested regular cocoa intake led to improved mental function in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia. “There is data in rats showing that they live longer and have better cognitive function when they eat chocolate, and even in snails you can show that the snail memory is actually improved,” he said. Source: BBC


The Charity Fundraiser will be presenting Laugh til it Hurts at the Bloomsbury Theatre on January 23 2013, with Simon Evans (Compere), Sean Lock, Marcus Brigstocke, Stewart Francis, Dave Johns, and Lloyd Langford, raising money for Save the Children. Tickets £17.50.


IN BRIEF Got the blues

RACISM IN THE WORKPLACE Ethnic minority women suffering discrimination from employers Black and minority ethnic women are subject to “catastrophic” levels of unemployment and discrimination, a group of MPs has warned. The all-party parliamentary group on race and community has released a report which says racial bias from some employers has been holding many ethnic minority women back from getting a job. Labour MP David Lammy, the committee’s chairman, described the situation as “deeply worrying”. Despite figures showing, nationally, unemployment has continued to fall, the report suggests racism is preventing some women from being chosen for jobs. One woman in the report said she changed her Muslim-sounding name and as a result secured more job interviews. A black African woman said she was overlooked for a law-based job in favour of two less qualified white women.

The third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. Known as ‘blue Monday’ it is said to be so gloomy because of postChristmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills. This all adds up to a general ‘workplace malaise’ that could be costing businesses as much as £93bn, according to research by the University of Exeter.

Oh I do like to be (divorced) beside the seaside Blackpool has the highest percentage of divorcees – 13.1%, compared with nine percent in England and Wales. This includes same-sex civil partnerships. Divorce expert, Suzy Miller, says “people might have moved to Blackpool to have a new start when their relationship is in trouble, when what they should be doing is communicating better”.

We give you our pick of the top comedy viral videos this month. Click on the text below and enjoy. Tweet us your top videos @olemagazine


Tickled penguin

Nerd beatbox

Drunk guy at the office party




Want some soun d advice? E-mail editor@ol k with the subject line ‘Gripes’. We won’t judge



There is someone in the office who talks really loud and is very distracting when I’m trying to work. He’s a nice guy and I don’t know how to tell him to keep it down without hurting his feelings. Should I just email the boss? Jade, Kent

I have got my appraisal coming up and I’m really nervous about it as it’s something we didn’t really do in my previous role. What can I expect? Tim, Farnborough

It might be the easiest option to simply send an email to your boss, but there is no guarantee that your colleague won’t know it was you who complained anyway. Be honest; email your colleague direct and ask if he could keep it down. Be light-hearted about it and you shouldn’t hurt his feelings. He will probably appreciate that more than you reporting him to the boss.

caption competition

If you’ve been doing your job to the best of your ability, there is really nothing to be nervous about. Appraisals are an opportunity for your employers to give you feedback on your progress and for you to highlight any issues you’ve had. It’s also a chance to blow your own trumpet, so go prepared with a list of your achievements for the year – it could just get you a pay rise.

This month’s picture

Last month’s winner: Hilary Jones

Santa was board to death with Christmas”

For a chance to win M&S vouchers! Email your captions to


on the job

JOB NEWS Companies still ing investing in train of AAT (Association by ey rv su w ne A d nicians) has foun Accounting Tech gish economy, that, despite a slug ily in ill investing heav st e ar s er oy pl em ten skills. Over nine in d an ng ni ai tr f af st either expect to invest s er oy pl em ) 2% (9 on e time and money or m or e m sa e th ills alifications and sk qu f af st g in ov pr im e half (44%) of thos rly ea N . ar ye xt ne ouse to use more in-h ct pe ex ed ey rv su and almost a third training in future otecus more on rem fo to ct pe ex ) 1% (3 s. learning resource e BE, chief executiv Jane Scott Paul O t has been made of AAT, said: “A lo sses taking fewer recently of busine to pital and refusing risks, sitting on ca ts this research pain invest profits. But are cture. Employers a very different pi f to improving staf clearly committed skills.” qualifications and

A mature investment As more than half (56%) of worke rs over 55 plan to work beyond retirement age, it is in employers interests to enable older people to stay in work for as long as possible, say s the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at CIPD, said: “Research shows that old er workers are increasingly looking to extend their working lives and by 202 0 it is predicted that 36% of the workin g population will be aged over 50. As a result those businesses that are proactive in addressing the challen ges of an ageing workforce will gain a significant competitive edge, both in terms of recruiting and retaining tale nt, but also through supporting the we llbeing and engagement of employee s of all ages. “The business case for older workers is strong. However, despite this, our research found that more than three quarters (76%) of older worke rs reported that their employers had not made any reasonable adjustments to help them carry on working.”

on the job

Email nightmare Surging numbers of emails are causing workers to spend countless hours sorting, filing, flagging and tagging, instead of actioning items, a survey by software firm Varonis has revealed. To cope with the deluge, 43% of office workers surveyed routinely turn off their email together in the shape of a ‘virtual coffee break’. The study, which questioned employees about their digital habits, found nearly a quarter receive between 100 to 1,000 emails a day, with one in ten facing more than 10,000 emails in their inbox. In their struggle to stay on top of this, workers were found to fall into three different categories: • Filers: 34% clear their inbox on a daily basis and file messages into folders. • Hoarders: 17% never delete messages. • Respondents: 44% practice a hybrid of both to stay on top of their mailboxes. Of all those surveyed, 40% spend 30 minutes or more every day managing their email, in addition to reading and responding, equating to 120 hours every year. However, a small but telling niche of six per cent admitted to throwing in the towel and completely giving up on maintaining control over their email.

Surge in private sector jobs Around 24 million people in Britain are working in the private sector, the highest number since records began, acc ording to the Office for National Statistics. In the past twelve months, the number of private sector worke rs has increased by 627,000 – while the number of public sector workers has dropped by 128,000. The public sector has shrunk to its smallest in a decade, employing 5.7 million – while the private sector now employs 23.9 million. Figures also show unemployme nt is falling at its fastest pace for mo re than a decade. The total number of workers across the public and private sector, has hit 29.6 million, the largest workforce since records began in 1971. Source: Daily Mail


Work-related stress is now the most common type of work-related illness (221,000 new cases) Source: IOSH

on the job

E V E RY EVENTUALITY Got an important meeting or conference to arrange and haven’t a clue where to start? Look no further. AL FOX from Leeds Venues gives his top five tips for booking conferences and events

on the job

THE GUEST LIST Generally speaking, when you plan an event, around half the invited guests will give a positive RSVP and around half of those will attend the event. Bear this in mind when booking venues as a huge space filled with hundreds of empty chairs may make attendees feel that your event has flopped. It’s a tricky balance to get right, but once you get closer to some firm numbers, ensure the room, tables and chairs will look proportionate to the expected turnout. Some flexibility at booking time is important. BE UNIQUE How many events or meetings have we all attended that could have been in exactly the same room? Magnolia walls, navy carpets, identical tables and chairs – one venue so often merges into another. If you really want your meeting or event to be memorable, choose a unique venue. It’s an easy way to really stand out. Most towns and cities have a wealth of fantastic historical buildings and creative spaces that now offer event and conference facilities. Many councils have realised the potential of renting these spaces out and have kitted them out with the appropriate facilities. An invite to a prominent historical building like a town hall gives a sense of grandeur, while an arts venue like Leeds Art Gallery will bring out the creativity in your meeting guests. For inspiration and innovation, why not choose a museum? Guests will be interested in their surroundings and may even stay and network longer so they can have a good look around. SPACE AND TIME When you book a meeting or conference room, pay particular attention to the amount of space available for all your invited guests, including their bags, coats and laptops. Crushing people into a room will be uncomfortable and unproductive. It may seem like a small detail but when there isn’t enough room, guests will remember. When planning your meeting, you also need to schedule in regular breaks and networking time, to help everyone stay focused and get the most out of the meeting. Remember that things will always take longer than anticipated. TECHNOLOGY Ensuring there’s a plug point and extension lead for a projector isn’t enough these days. Wi-fi is almost essential now and it’s not only the speaker who will want internet access – many people will want to use their laptop, tablet or phone during an event. Ensure that the password given to you by the venue works properly beforehand and also ask them if they have procedures in place in case the internet connection fails. Check this at the time of booking to ensure the venue is wi-fi ready. PRICE AND NEGOTIATION You must always ensure you are completely clear about what the venue provides for the fee you will pay. Ensure this part is in writing at the time of booking. In some instances, there may be room for negotiation – perhaps your event will be attractive to the venue owner and therefore give you a bargaining chip. For example, it might be for a prestigious company or an organisation that they’d like to be associated with. Or it might be an event for local business owners who may then go onto booking the venue for events themselves. Remind the venue owners what’s in it for them and sell your event as best as you can. Sometimes prices will be set and non-negotiable, but don’t base your decision on this. The venue, its facilities and the location are the most important factors. It’s also not recommended to scrimp on hospitality; guests notice the small things – if they feel they’re being short-changed it can lead to a bad feeling about the whole event. Booking an event in Leeds, by any chance? For more information about booking meeting rooms in the city, including information on some of the most unique and inspiring spaces in the city, visit

on the job

VIRTUAL ( A S S I S TA N T ) REALITY The start of a new year doesn’t just bring resolutions, it also gets us assessing our lives. Are we where we want to be in our careers? Do we see our family and friends enough? For some, freelancing seems to offer the kind of work-life balance we crave. JODIE TAYLOR reports

on the job


he turbulent economy of the past few years has caused redundancies and closures, with even household names failing to survive. One industry that is booming, however, is the virtual office. Virtual assistants or VAs are becoming increasingly popular as businesses can get work done without the overheads associated with permanent staff. There’s no need to worry about paid breaks, maternity leave, sick pay, holidays and pensions – they simply contact a VA either directly or through an agency and negotiate a fee. VAs are particularly popular with small business owners, as it allows them to buy the skills or time they don’t have. The internet enables businesses to search the world for the right person for the job, and as an added bonus they often get to take advantage of lower wages than are expected in their local area. The virtual office has been a god send for business, but what about the VA? As stated above, there’s a lack of paid holiday, maternity leave, pension or sick pay, but some people are prepared to give all this up to be their own boss and work from home. THE WORK/LIFE BALANCE Freelancing often suits people with young children as they can choose to work during term time or around the school day. It isn’t just a convenient career choice for parents though, it’s open to everyone, no matter what their skill set.

Many people are under the misapprehension that if someone works from home then they are not actually working

Calling all VAs… Do you want to star in our Day in the Diary feature see the next page? Email for details

There are VAs for everything from admin to IT, marketing and accountancy. Being a VA also removes the hassle of the daily commute as well as any office politics. It opens up your work prospects massively as you are no longer restricted by your postcode. Like any freelance work, being a VA beats the monotony of performing the same tasks for the same business day in day out. It’s also a good alternative for people who are great at getting the job done but struggle with interview nerves and dread the thought of an office party. THINKING OF GOING VIRTUAL? If you’re thinking of becoming a VA you need to be really disciplined when working from home and it’s important to set up a dedicated work space that’s organised and distraction free. You also need to make sure that others understand your role, warns the UK Association of Virtual Assistants. According to its blog: “Many people are under the misapprehension that if someone works from home then they are not actually working. They may believe that you are fair game for a social call during the day or that you may be able to run errands that would otherwise mean them taking time off work… It’s really important to set the ground rules early and then stand firm. You must make certain your friends and family understand that when you are working, then you are working and that when your time is interrupted, you will not be earning. You have to hit the ground running as a VA – you don’t get that ‘settling in’ period that you do with traditional employment. There’s no such thing as a probation period and if you don’t deliver on your first task, your client won’t send you another. It’s also important for VAs to consider whether to take the direct approach or join an agency. If you contact businesses yourself you’ll probably earn more per hour as there’s no agency to take a cut of your fee. However, agencies do take the stress out of building a client base. They are likely to be able to send you regular work and may be a less daunting option for people who are new to the role. Finally, it’s really important to judge how long each job will take as you may end up working for a pittance if you don’t get it right. It doesn’t matter how great your hourly rate is, if you misjudge how long a job will take you, you could be losing money.

on the job

D AY I N T H E D I A R Y HORSING AROUND JULIA FELTON helps people to develop key life skills through coaching with horses. She is author of Unbridled Success: How the Secret Lives of Horses Can Impact Your Leadership, Teamwork and Communication Skills


Wake up and then meditate for 30 minutes or listen to an inspiring audio on my iPod


Check emails and make sure I have a plan for the day


Drive to the yard where my four horses – Toby, Charlie, Bracken and Thistle – are kept. Most of the year they live out overnight, so I go to the field to check on them. I rearrange their rugs if necessary and at this time of year break the ice on their water trough. Today, I bring all the horses into their stables as we have a client coming for an Unbridled Success Retreat.


My client arrives and I brief her on the day over a cup of coffee. We take the horses to the arena and the morning fun begins. I just love this work, where the horses are the teachers, and as my client works through a range of exercises with different horses she gains real insights into what is happening in her life and business.


Off to the local pub with the client for a well-deserved lunch and a debrief on the mornings activities. Today, my client experiences four different breakthroughs. We discuss these and then create a plan so that she can integrate these into her life and business.


Back to the yard to feed the horses before they go back to the field. While they have dinner I muck out their stables.


Check Facebook, Twitter (@Julia_Felton) and LinkedIn and answer emails.


Grab some dinner and reflect on the day’s events – what went well and what I would do differently next time.


Drive to a local networking event. These provide a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and attract new clients.


Relax: maybe some TV, usually an episode of CSI or a dip in my hot tub.

lunch break

BREAKTIME desktop dining G I V E A W AY

G O O D N AT U R E D For some guilt-free postChristmas shopping with a difference, check out WWF’s online shop. They source all their products from sustainable and renewable sources and have strict eco-criteria. To be in with a chance of winning a selection of toiletries from WWF’s Good Natured range, email editor@ with ‘Good Natured’ in the subject line.


HHHHH What is it? If you’re in the capital this month and looking for something healthy and quick for lunch, try Chop’d. Specialising in gourmet salads, soups, stews, sushi, wraps and meze, there is something for everyone. Click here to locate a store.


INGREDIENTS Large bunch watercress, washed, stalks and leaves separated; 300ml vegetable stock; 500ml Alpro soya dairy-free alternative to milk (unsweetened); 3 tbsp sunflower oil; 1 large onion, finely chopped; 1 medium potato, cubed; bunch fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, 400g fresh or frozen shelled peas.

PREPARATION: 1. Chop the watercress stalks and put into a small saucepan with the stock and soya milk. Bring to a simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and leave to infuse. 2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat until softened. Add the potato, stir, cover and cook until soft. Add the mint and peas, strain the soya milk stock into the pan, discarding the watercress stalks. Season and simmer for two minutes. Stir in the watercress leaves and turn off heat. 3. Drain the soup through a sieve. Put the solids into a blender with a little of the soup liquid and purée. Push this mixture through the sieve into the bowl with the back of a ladle and repeat with any solids left in the sieve. Serve warm. Source: Delicious magazine

lunch break





To Kill a Mockingbird

This vigorous exercise programme inspired by boxing karate and tai-chi will have you kicked back into shape in no time. The perfect highenergy work-out to beat those post Christmas blues. Visit

This adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee isn’t due to open until mid Feb but is set to be a hit, so book your tickets now. It tells the story of Scout Finch as she grows up in the 1930s depression in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Her childhood innocence is shattered when her father, Atticus defends a young black man accused of rape. Where? Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

SPA Thermae Bath Spa

Treat yourself to a visit to Thermae Spa, Bath, Britain’s only natural thermal spa. Bathe in the warm, natural mineral-rich waters and choose from a range of spa treatments designed to ease the body and soothe the mind.

S N A C K of M O N T H the

DETOX WITH GOLDENBERRIES These Terrafertil dried Goldenberries grown in South America have 166% more antioxidants than cranberries and contain twice as much fibre as prunes or dates, more potassium than four bananas and are a rich source of vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. What’s more, they are organically grown on Fairtrade farmland to ensure the highest standard of fruit and Taste: 8 the best return for local farmers and Moreishness: 6 their communities. Convenience: 10 Available from Health factor: 9 Holland & Barratt.



lunch break


Those of a tweedy disposition can now enjoy their beloved Apple gadgets even more with the new range of accessories from iChic. This great range of iPhone and iPad covers will keep your pride and joy safe and stylish with a choice of different colour linings and styles. Combining a hard shell with a luxurious tweed outer layer, these covers are the best of both worlds.

I F YO U H AV E N ’ T H A D E N O U G H C H O C O L AT E …

Need something to look forward to now Christmas has been and gone? Indulge your love for all things cocoa with chocolate-fuelled festivities and perfect gifts at the Brighton Chocolate Festival, which will be taking over New Road from 9 to 10 March in time for Easter three weeks later. But don’t count on having any chocolate left by then.

F I L M : G A N G S T E R S Q UA D

Man of the moment Ryan Gosling is joined by an all-star cast going to war on the streets of ‘40s Los Angeles in Gangster Squad. Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is LA’s crime kingpin whose tyrannical rule over the city seems to be out of reach for a police department beset by fear and corruption. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is one member of the department who is not prepared to stand by and watch his city burn and with the help of a team of renegade cops, including young hotshot Jerry Wooters (Gosling), he takes the fight to Cohen’s men on their terms.


This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the CAMRA Sussex Beer and Cider Festival celebrating local and international real ales, at the Hove Centre from 28 February to 2 March. Cheers!

lunch break

O F F I C E C AT W A L K New year, new you. Make this your year for a promotion with our top picks of the new season’s work wear.

1 4 3




1 Cobalt blue boucle jacket £30, F&F at Tesco 2 Neon courts, £29.99, Bonprix



3 Black dress with white collar detailing, £85.00, 4 Lime T-Shirt £35; Pied a Terre Skirt, £80, Dickins & Jones; Bag £69 Juno. All available at House of Fraser 5 Pink wrap skirt, £19.99, Bonprix 6 Cosmos Scarf, £135 by Marc Anderson at 7 Royal blue handbag with zip design handles and matching purse, £23.99, A-SHU.CO.UK

8 Black leather effect tote handbag with long strap, £23.99, A-SHU.CO.UK,

lunch break



Sales executive Liam Jack tells us how to take the pain out of the morning commute

Liam Jack Sales Executive

Did you agree with the columnist? Think you can do better? Email us with your “And one more thing” of approx. 300 words to

There can’t be many phrases in the working day lexicon that have as many negative connotations as ‘the morning commute’. It instantly conjures up feelings of frustration, tedium, and, in extreme cases, abject despair. An uncomfortable commute can turn even the most level-headed member of society into a raging sociopath, ready to ruin the day of everyone around them before it’s even really begun. Having recently moved to London, I am now experiencing just how uncomfortable a nine-to-five commute can be in the capital. I live near Harrow and work in Islington. My journey takes an hour by foot, overground rail and the brutally congested Northern Line. As any working Londoner knows, the underground is especially torturous in the morning. The overcrowded carriages are like human sardine tins as people squeeze, push and barge their way into every available space. The entire experience can be so exhaustingly unpleasant that by the time you get to the office you feel that you deserve to take the rest of the day off to recover. So how can we make this ordeal a little more tolerable? Well firstly I believe it’s important to be conscientious of each other. A little kindness goes a long way and making sure that we’re looking out for each other is the best way to make the start of the day more pleasant. Secondly, I think it’s worth getting up early and making sure you have plenty of time to get to the office. This means that you avoid the transport system before it gets overwhelmingly clogged as last minute commuters rush to punch in on time. And finally, try and make your time on your commute count. Don’t just stare into space; read a good book or get some work done. In fact, these very words were penned somewhere between Kenton and Euston station.

Go to for must-read office and career advice, along with ideas for your lunch, competitions and funny stuff to make your nine-to-five go by quicker.

A website even your boss would love