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THIS MAN CAN HELP BOOST YOUR CAREER Paul Pennant from Today’s PA discusses training and how PAs are coping with working from home

PA PROFILE With all Assistants currently ‘virtual’, Alchemy VA founder Suzy Sanders offers her top tips HOW TO... Experts provide guides on how to run events safely and how to adapt to new working spaces THE OFFICE REBOOT Post-lockdown advice on safe offices, venues, catering, staff motivation and more... PLUS Find out more about our upcoming digital events - the Wellness Revival Festival and PA Life LIVE!

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WELCOME... It’s been an extraordinary few months since our last issue. As we went to press, the country was heading into lockdown and our lives were about to change beyond recognition. Five months on and restrictions have lifted somewhat – and now we’re ready to head into what is constantly being referred to as The New Normal. From a work perspective, for some that means continuing to work from home; for others a return to the office is coming shortly. But either way, for many PAs, EAs and Administrative Assistants, it means doubling down on duties and tasks as they help their executives and wider teams to return to business. And this issue is all about the ‘back-to-office reboot’ – from creating a Covid-safe office, to catering options, to corporate gifting and motivational staff rewards, to booking venues and organising events. All these elements of an Assistant’s workload have changed dramatically – our guides in this issue are designed to provide some assistance. We also know that, while many Assistants – thankfully – haven’t been furloughed over the past few months, many of them have had to take on additional roles to cover for colleagues who have. As Today’s PA founder Paul Pennant points out in our interview with him, they are also finding communication with execs and teams more tricky, while many are struggling with mental health issues.

“For many PAs, EAs and Administrative Assistants, these last few months have meant a doubling down on duties and tasks.” Meanwhile, as most of us continue to work from home, what better advice than from Suzy Sanders, Virtual Assistant and founder of VA Alchemy, about how to manage your workload remotely? She is the subject of our PA Profile this issue. With a number of events associated with PA Life, the team here is happy that the Government has given the green light for business events to go ahead from the beginning of October. In the meantime, we’ve been busy creating virtual events - from networking ‘meet-ups’ to the PA Life LIVE digital conference which we debuted in June. And we’re delighted that we are presenting another LIVE event on September 30th, which will pull together a series of experts to further help you traverse working as an Assistant in the New Normal. Make sure you book your free place via In addition, we’ve teamed up with events industry charity Eventwell to host the digital event Wellness Revival Festival on September 16th. This one-day event will give you the chance to focus on your personal wellbeing, with a series of sessions covering everything from yoga and meditation, to how to increase your confidence and positivity. Again, you can book your place via the PA Life website. And finally, we’re looking forward to seeing many of you in person at the PA Life Summit. This will take place on November 19th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf and will also play host to the PA Life Christmas Party. We’re glad to be back and we look forward to seeing you all very soon! Lisa Carter, Associate Editor



“This is an opportunity to let outworn behaviours and beliefs fall away to make space for a new way of being.”

Life after Lockdown As we emerge out of lockdown, transformational coach and healer Amy Gallagher invites you to explore the habits you want to keep, the ones to leave behind and how to deal with new anxieties around embracing the New Normal... Wow! What a year 2020 is turning out to be. Many of you sailed into this new decade with high hopes of fresh starts. Many of you felt like your hopes were dashed pretty sharpish when you went into lockdown. Being taken off your desired path doesn’t have to be bad news. In fact, it’s often a calling for you to review where you are in your life; an opportunity to let outworn behaviours and beliefs fall away to make space for a new way of being. WHAT NEW HABITS HAVE YOU FORMED THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE? Getting outside and exploring nature Walking in nature is a beautiful and enjoyable way to calm your mind and ground your energy. It’s also a great form of exercise to notch up your steps to the desired 10k a day. Cooking from scratch A survey conducted by Flora revealed that almost half the people they spoke to have been cooking from scratch more regularly and approximately one third eating more healthily. A healthy diet contributes to a strong immune system - so keep on eating those greens. Slower pace of life Most of you went from living a fast life with busy schedules to being forced to


stay at home with nowhere to be. Slowing down can have a calming and relaxing effect on body and mind. Moving more A survey commissioned by Nuffield Health revealed that 76% of you have taken up at least one new form of exercise since lockdown began, with walking and cycling being the faves. Keep on moving for improved physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. WHAT HABITS WILL YOU BE LEAVING BEHIND? Increased alcohol intake According to YouGov, 35% of you have been drinking more in lockdown, with 28% saying you have been drinking a little more and 7% a lot more. Excessive drinking can have a serious impact on your wellbeing. Be honest with yourself if your intake has increased and seek help if you feel it’s spiralling out of control. Erratic sleeping habits You may have moaned in the past about the mundanity of a routine, but it does help with sleep quality and patterns. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and set your alarm for the same time each morning. Try to avoid reading news before bedtime and give yourself a break from your screen before you hit the hay.

Increased screen time More video calls, more time to mindlessly scroll through social media, digesting more online news mean it might be time to review your screen time. If yours has increased significantly, try turning your phone off an hour before bedtime, limit your news time to once a day and experiment with listening to a podcast or reading a book rather than looking at Facebook and Instagram. Comfort eating A King’s College and Ipsos MORI survey reports that 48% of its respondents have put on weight during lockdown and most of it is down to comfort eating. Getting outside, more movement and establishing a healthy routine can help get you back on track. Remember, lockdown was an extraordinary experience. Go easy on yourself if you’ve formed habits that aren’t serving you. If you feel anxious about going back to work, travelling on public transport or mixing in public again, do it at your pace as much as you can. You can get back on track and you don’t have to do it alone. Ensure you reach out for help from family, friends or a professional. I offer free 30-minute consultations. Email to book an appointment.


Suzy Sanders Suzy Sanders quit the 9-5 when she fell pregnant and wanted to spend more time at home. She became a Virtual Assistant, realised she could help others looking to do the same and then set up the Alchemy VA franchise. She tells all to PA Life... Photography: Dave Willis



Having the opportunity to structure my schedule is huge. It’s empowering to be able to work with (instead of against) P\VHOI DQGĂ€QGDKDSS\KHDOWK\DQGHIIHFWLYHUK\WKP Why did you choose to become a Virtual Assistant? My little boy is my why. After maternity leave, I went back to work but I no longer felt content or really challenged by my role. Motherhood bought with it great strength, resilience and incredible clarity. All the clichĂŠs are true - becoming a parent changes you on every level and it’s not something you can prepare for! I became a Virtual Assistant as I was seeking more fulďŹ lment, exibility and freedom from my work – the Three Fs as I now call them. I wanted to work but if I was leaving my little boy, I wanted work with tangible impact. I wanted to support people who lit me up and I wanted to know that I was truly making a difference. I also wanted exibility; I didn’t want to have to ask anyone’s permission to take the day off if my son was ill or to take him to the park if the sun was out. I wanted the best of both worlds, a chance to pursue meaningful work, further develop myself and still do the school run. What led you to set up Alchemy VA? And what does your company offer? Skill and professionalism had allowed me to ourish in my previous fast-paced jobs, but it was when I became a mother that my mindset really shifted. My son gave me the focus and drive to leave my corporate job and embark on a journey to start my own business. As Alchemy VA grew and evolved, my purpose deepened, and I realised that I was driven by inspiring and facilitating the Three Fs for other people too. There are three main ways that I do this now: • Alchemy’s Virtual Assistant services – we provide our clients with adaptable, exible and efficient admin, marketing and PA support. It’s low commitment yet high impact. • Our Virtual Assistant franchise – we enable others to replicate and build their own successful Alchemy VA business with our insight, guidance and support. • My book - ‘The Alchemy of Virtual Assistance: Creating a successful Virtual Assistant business around your family’. My book was a real soul project, the main aim being to give curious, aspiring VAs real life insights into what it really takes to be a successful Virtual Assistant as well as sharing my personal highs and lows growing Alchemy. Why did you choose to set up a franchise element to Alchemy VA? I always had the vision of creating a meaningful and impactful business as opposed to being a freelance VA. After a LOT of soul searching, reading, planning, researching, risk and cost modelling, analysing and thinking – my husband Paul and I settled on the franchise model and got to work! It’s been a very long time in the making.


The steady inux of questions and enquiries from aspiring VAs asking if Alchemy were recruiting, and a growing number of established VAs who were struggling, deďŹ nitely shaped things. Some days I get more of these types of emails than client enquires, and it’s deďŹ nitely ramped up more in recent months as the world has been thrown into one big home working experiment. I think this is partly because we’ve all been given the chance to pause, reect and reassess our true priorities. Heartbreakingly, to so many, the concept of a safe, secure job has been shattered somewhat and, whilst being your own boss still brings such uncertainty and risk, at least everything is in your control. In the past I mentored new and growing VAs, which I absolutely loved doing! We also built a small pool of handpicked associate VAs too, to help us keep up with demand and really reďŹ ne practical ways of remote team working. All of this gave me invaluable experience and great fulďŹ lment. Some strong themes were appearing with regards to the challenges and fears new VAs face. So, we set to work addressing these, using all our knowledge and experiences to strengthen our franchise model. It was the natural next step to fulďŹ l both my personal and business objectives. The concept of really taking others under our wing, in every sense, and continuing to grow our family business makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Pretty much all Assistants have been VAs over the past few months! What do you think the challenges are of working from home? And what are the opportunities? My biggest personal challenges have always been the blurred boundaries, the feeling of isolation and, of course, balancing family and personal commitments alongside my work. The juggle is real, and I cover this in more detail in my book. I like to refer to it as ‘the bamboo effect’. Essentially, it’s all about having the mental strength and agility in order to really enjoy the exibility and make it work for you. There are so many opportunities and advantages to working from home and let’s be real, it is both a blessing and a curse. On a personal level, having the exibility to work around my family commitments is a massive advantage. However, that’s obviously been much less uid and much more reactive (and pressured!) during lockdown. In a professional capacity, having the opportunity to structure my schedule is huge. It’s empowering being able to work with (instead of against) myself by setting up my working day to honour and align to my personal productive ‘peaks’ and ďŹ nd a happy, healthy and effective rhythm. For example, I’m at my best ďŹ rst thing. I’m an early riser and I often get up at dawn to get a few more brain intensive tasks complete before the ‘normal’ working day starts. I often pick


up more creative/reflective tasks (such as writing training exercises and sessions for the Alchemy team or writing blogs) in the evening after I’ve finished my working day and I’ve allowed my mind to rest and marinate in the learnings from the day. I have never had the opportunity to work this way in an employed job and it’s not only liberating but I am also far more productive. What advice would you give to someone considering a career shift to VA full-time? There are three key things I would always advise anyone considering the big leap to self-employment: • Define what success means to you. It is so personal and deeply subjective. Before you set out on any path - first establish what it is YOU want to achieve. What success looks like to you. • Do your homework - research and explore all of your options. Get your numbers and finances in order and establish which possible avenue will lead you to your personal definition of success in the most fun and fulfilling way. • Once you’ve chosen a path, stick to it. Draw on your resources, believe in yourself wholeheartedly, show up for yourself and take consistent action - every single day. What can a VA expect to earn? There are so many variables to consider when it comes to being a self-employed VA as well as the complexity and diverse nature of individual circumstances. However, to give you an idea of earning potential, the Society of Virtual Assistants conduct an annual survey on the UK VA industry and the survey report I read recently stated that self-employed VAs


charge on average £27 per hour. It’s important to remember that when you’re self-employed you’re never taking 100% of your charge rate home in your pay packet each month. What are the most challenging aspects of your job? I know that it’s all about balance and time to rest, recharge, reflect and restore are all very important parts of the process. But, I don’t really have a ‘stop button’, I’m all or nothing. I am also insanely passionate about my business. I’ve been burned out before and it’s not a place I’d like to go back to. I think switching off is by far my greatest personal challenge. We’ve all been locked in the house, working together with our partners and families. You work full-time with your husband – what’s the secret to avoiding divorce or worse…? Yes, it’s been a crazy time that’s for sure. I am incredibly proud that my company had grown enough that my husband was able to leave his full-time job in August 2018 and join me as my business partner. Paul and I are both completely real and open with each other about our needs. We have defined as clear and fluid as possible working hours, taking both our individual commitments into account. It’s all about self-awareness, understanding, trust and unconditional support. I’m a huge introvert and I need time alone; that’s been a challenge in lockdown. You know you’re an introvert when you’re craving time alone at a time when you can’t leave your house much! Having a home-based business helps though. If I feel I need to get out for a walk or lock the bathroom door and sink into the bath – I can. I always leave room in my schedule for down time on my own. That’s how I recharge.


How to plan a successful and safe post-lockdown event Rebecca Thomas, Director at London-based Eventify, provides advice on event management in the post-lockdown era... Here at Eventify, we are an event management company committed to providing an unrivalled bespoke and personal service. We offer a free venue finding service, as well as end-to-end event management. We were thrilled to hear that business events and conferences can resume from October 1st. The hospitality and business sectors have received a much-anticipated timetable to get live events back on the agenda. We have all missed them! We are so happy to be helping our clients – providing the latest advice on social distance regulations, sourcing COVID-secure venues and offering reassurance that events can once again be safe, special and full of engagement. Here are our Top Three Tips for Planning ‘New Norm’ Events… Be flexible – Delegate travel habits will alter, as will their working timetables and locations. Could a weekend or evening


event with staggered start times be more effective than an early morning session? Rather than hosting an event in a city centre which might mean the use of public transport, would guests be happier attending out of town venues with good parking? Also, agendas will

or dance. Why not host a hybrid event (part live and part online) or a virtual occasion where participants interact in the celebrations with unique guest packages sent directly to their doors? Focus on the guest experience – We live by the motto that ‘all events are

Focus on the guest experience. Now, more than ever, your guests need to be cherished, treated with extra TLC and, most importantly, made to feel valued and safe.

need to adapt to accommodate extra safety measures. Could the event timings be modified to work for smaller groups? Think creatively – Instead of holding one large event, consider smaller bespoke events allowing you to focus on everyone’s safety and engagement. Perhaps a seated dinner with reduced numbers and table service, accompanied by live entertainment rather than a disco

special’ whatever the size, location or style. Now, more than ever, your guests need to be cherished, treated with extra TLC and, most importantly, made to feel valued and safe. We work with all of our clients to find that ‘certain something’ to create a perfect memorable occasion. Contact us at to follow our socials and read our insider event industry blog ‘Diary of a Party Girl’.


It’s essential for delegates to pre-register so that organisers can manage numbers. Print-at-home badges are useful for ensuring delegates don’t have to linger around.

How to manage social distancing at events Simon Clayton, Chief Ideas Officer at RefTech, offers some key advice… Since the beginning of August, we are now able to organise and attend socially distanced meetings for up to thirty delegates. This means that event organisers will need technology to manage delegate footfall and create a staggered entry system. Delegates will need a simple to use system to register their attendance (and maybe even pay a fee, as well as be vetted for quality) and then be able to choose and book their own convenient arrival time with the system managing availability. When choosing a system, I suggest that you consider the following: LIMIT YOUR NUMBERS Organisers will need a simple yet powerful tool to manage the bookings, and one that is flexible enough to allow them to set their own limit of how many people can arrive at any given time, and how long that arrival window is.


ARRIVAL COMMUNICATION Organisers will need to allow for a few hiccups because people will inevitably arrive early or late, so they will need a system that will monitor attendees in real time, and enable communication with attendees who have yet to arrive. This could be a push message to the app, or a text message to their phone to tell them to delay entry whilst a bottleneck is being dealt with. Organisers can decide how ‘strict’ they want to be with attendees - they can scan people on arrival and only let them into the event within their allotted time slot, or allow some leeway. Either way, organisers are likely to have to be flexible with transport delays or risk upsetting attendees. OFF-SITE REGISTRATION It will be essential for delegates to pre-register so that organisers can manage numbers and attendance. Print-at-home badges will be a useful way of ensuring that delegates can walk

straight into the venue and not have to linger at the entrance. Badges are still, in my opinion, a good tool to have for smaller events – they present less risk of contamination than supermarket goods and they are a very useful tool to ensure that everyone knows who everyone is – and to save the embarrassment of forgetting a distant colleague’s name. That said, if physical badges are an issue, some event apps can bring up a digital version of the badge quickly and easily. TIMELY DEPARTURES Event numbers are limited to 30 people, so organisers may need to cap the amount of time delegates can actually be at an event. Sending a polite reminder to delegates to remind them of this, and notify them that they only have 30 minutes of time left, can help an organiser to control numbers. RefTech is the company behind event management system EventReference.


As people continue to work remotely, they may crave time and space to meet with colleagues, not just once a year at a conference, but maybe once a month.

How To switch from traditional office spaces Joanne Barratt, Managing Director of The Venues Collection, explains why working with a venue supplier could help staff stay connected... As we all become accustomed to the ‘new normal’, flexibility will be key in our approach to bringing people together again in the new office. Professor Cary Cooper, a leading psychologist, has predicted that more and more people will continue to work from home post-Covid, and this brings a wide range of benefits such as more time with the family, less stress and reduced travel time and carbon emissions. But we are all now experiencing the fatigue that accompanies constant video meetings and a lack of face-to-face contact. Video calls have their own challenges; they make us tired because our brains need to work harder to process the non-verbal cues that we normally pick up on. As people continue to work remotely, they may crave time and space to meet with their colleagues, not just once a year at the big company conference, but

maybe once a month or once a week. A flexible approach to this could be taken, one that incorporates home-working with regular in-person meet-ups. However, financial pressures will also impact these decisions and could mean that renting a traditional office building may be too much of a burden for some companies to take; using a flexible office space becomes an attractive proposition. With this in mind, many businesses may find that it is more suitable to have a contract with a training and meetings venue. Space to meet can then be booked on a daily or even hourly basis. Occasional office or meeting space doesn’t have to resemble a traditional office layout, it can be set up to generate a more creative environment, to encourage different ways of thinking and inspire camaraderie in remote teams. Meeting rooms with adjoining open spaces will also offer a flexible in-doors / out-doors approach, which again

encourages creativity and inspirational working. Another consideration is that even on returning to the office, companies may find that they do not have enough space to house all of their employees now that they need to provide a socially distanced working environment. Having access to flexible office or meeting space through these times may be just what the company needs to thrive. Safety is of course important and so choosing space that is thoroughly cleaned between uses, is self contained and that adheres to social distancing rules is paramount. Flexible working needs a flexible attitude and access to flexible office space. It is time to re-think and move away from the traditional office. Joanne Barratt is Managing Director of The Venues Collection – a group of eight venues offering Covid-secure office, meeting and training space.



The Skills Master Training specialist Today’s PA was founded over 15 years ago by PAul Pennant. And that’s not a typo in his name – it demonstrates how committed he is to the PA and EA community and helping individuals achieve their potential. He speaks to Lisa Carter…

Tell us about Today’s PA – the background to the company and what you offer. Today’s PA is 15 and a half years old now, with graduates from 80 countries around the world. Training is face-to-face, with people inviting me to their venues, along with online training at present. My training takes in all manner of organisations global market-leading corporations such as Microsoft, along with PAs for Heads of State – which in itself can be daunting. If these PAs aren’t impressed with the training, they’re telling the leaders of a country about it!



Our focus is to try and make people less stressed at work through their own behaviour and interaction with colleagues, along with learning to use technology appropriately, which can have important time-saving benefits and provide additional help when alleviating stress levels. And what’s your own personal background? I used to be a PA in St George’s Hospital, London, working for a quango (Government department) for five years until I decided one day that I wanted to do something different. By looking at my own skillset and researching the marketplace, I quickly realised that there weren’t any high-quality PA/EA training courses specific to the market - only additional training modules that acted as bolt-ons to other courses. I created Today’s PA to be a specialist provider that focuses entirely on delivering the best possible training within the PA sector. I was fortunate enough to launch the business in 2005 when the economy was buoyant and there was budget available for training, which meant I was profitable immediately. This helped with the initial and ongoing success of the company. Why do you think that PAs and EAs choose to train with Today’s PA? What are the benefits? In many cases organisations have mandatory training and courses available to staff – but they don’t necessarily address individual needs, which is where Today’s PA can help. Also, in many cases, PAs training together in a room learn from each other, and are reassured that what they might individually see as a challenge to them is actually shared and commonplace across the whole industry. Today’s PA has been voted the best training provider for six years in a row, and when it comes to awards, being voted by assistants as the best training provider is really special, especially as we’ve been up against some very big companies. The difference with our company is we’re a specialist training provider.

What are the most popular courses you run? Our main course is the five-day Today’s PA Academy. Day one looks at behavioural skills, day two at Microsoft Outlook, there’s PowerPoint and Excel on day three, day four is about project and event management, and on day five I teach people how to write minutes. Day two is interesting in that many people wonder how I can spend a day on Microsoft Outlook – but it’s actually about using the platform more productively, which many PAs simply don’t have time to learn. The course can be run from an organisation’s own venue, or PAs can travel to my own venue where the Academy is hosted five times a year. PAs can choose to do the whole five-day Academy, or there’s a ‘pick and mix’

opportunities can also be difficult for assistants who thrive on that experience. What challenges and opportunities have PAs faced during the pandemic and working from home? It’s been a mixed bag – spending time with the family is a bonus, but others find remote working quite lonely. There is also the issue with PAs working longer hours through lockdown. Cutting down on travelling has meant a cost saving, but spending more time focussing on a screen is an issue – and will become even more so in the future. The ‘coronacoaster’ term for feeling up and down really has come into play, with remote working being problematic as there is now no definition between work and home life. Mental health has also been affected

For now, companies have no choice but to let assistants work remotely. Going forward, the evidence shows that one or two days working from home increases productivity.

option where they can choose the modules that they’re interested in. A lot of my business comes from referrals, from past clients who have recommended me as a preferred supplier. I’ve also developed a 10-week online course, which runs a couple of hours a week. This training is different in that I also give homework throughout the duration of the course. This is done through Microsoft Teams in groups, with the sessions recorded so that they can be accessed for future reference. During COVID-19 what are the challenges of training virtually? And the benefits? Virtual training is challenging as I can’t see people physically, and for assistants who are used to dealing with people this can be a challenge. And looking at a screen can also be tiring. Interruptions can be problematic, too, and as a trainer trying to engage people and pick up on body language is a challenge in itself. Technology problems are also challenging, with wi-fi issues commonplace. Having no networking

with many struggling to juggle the work/ life balance. But for now, I think companies have no choice but to let assistants work from home. The evidence is there that PAs working from home one or two days a week shows an increase in productivity and is the right balance. Going forward, I think more coworking space will become available, with office space available within local communities, giving PAs structure and also interaction, which is great for mental wellbeing. ‘Is my job safe?’ is a big problem for PAs, especially with colleagues still on furlough or being made redundant. Physically being able to meet people is really important for a PA, plus not knowing what is actually going on within an organisation or being able to gauge what a boss is feeling or thinking. Also, the worry that when the furlough ends, how will the organisation adapt/change? But I would end by saying that it’s important that PAs realise that they’re not alone and to pull together. WWW.TODAYSPA.CO.UK



The office of the ‘new norm’

Five months after we switched to working from home, companies are tentatively looking at ways to return their staff to the office environment. PA Life looks at how to achieve this safely... Many EAs and PAs are now finding themselves involved with planning the safe return to the office. It’s a huge and unprecedented task that involves everything from risk assessment of office space, ensuring social distancing of staff at all times and much, much more. As the British Safety Council’s chief executive, Mike Robinson, explains: “We know from our members that there are a

>>> APPETITE FOR BUSINESS Appetite For Business specialises in every stage of the Microsoft 365 & SharePoint lifecycle, including planning, designing, data migration, deployment and user adoption. It provides SharePoint, 365 and Teams consultancy and training, with its bespoke training sessions delivered via Microsoft Teams and other online meeting applications. Fully understanding and utilising Microsoft 365 will ensure your staff can communicate, stay productive, and operate in the ‘new normal’ working conditions. Throughout this uncertain time,

whole range of factors affecting occupancy rates in offices. Workplaces need to be Covid-19 secure, meaning that employers need to assess their risks and have the necessary physical distancing and hygiene arrangements in place. Inevitably this will limit the number of workers they can accommodate at any one time. As the Prime Minister acknowledged, many employees will

Appetite For Business is continuing to operate and all of its services remain available and online – as the company’s work is in Microsoft 365, the team are able to operate as normal

to support customers. Appetite For Business’s proven track record and extensive user adoption experience with products such as Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft 365 and Teams enable it to provide you

choose to continue to work from home as it carries a lower risk and safeguards their wellbeing.” Thankfully, advice is plentiful and the British Safety Council itself can provide help. Contact them via or call 020 3510 8355. Similarly, the Health and Safety Executive is a good place to start. Find out more at

with expert knowledge on these and many other products. Founder Sheryl Newman – and a former EA - has a deep passion for technology and how it helps support business assistants in this role which led to the launch of Appetite in 2016. “We take tremendous pride in the recognition and awards we’ve received to date,” she said. “I am not only proud of the services we provide but also the underlying teamwork that makes it possible. We look to build long term partnerships built on trust, collaboration and quality”.



Back to basics It’s not the most glamorous of areas, but office supplies are the backbone of any business. As many companies now look to head back to the office, PA Life takes a look at new options... >>> 4R OFFICE SOLUTIONS 4R Office is a web-based office supplies business. The company promotes sustainability by price supporting and leading with eco and ethical products to improve their appeal and encourage their use. Some 2% of turnover is donated to Pump Aid (www., a charity that continues to improve the health and quality of life by providing clean water and sanitation to communities in Africa. Lack of clean water and sanitation disproportionately affects women and children. They are predominantly the ones who make the quite often long and unsafe daily walk to collect water. Children miss out on education and women are diverted from other more productive and fulfilling activities. The 4R Office ethos is that to achieve long term success there is a balance to be found between protecting people, the planet and profit. 4R Office makes it possible for the smaller business to make a difference while potentially saving time and money so extra benefits without any additional cost. • Reduce your business costs with 4R Office’s Green Office Audit which guarantees savings • Reduce your carbon footprint with 1000s of eco and ethical products • Change lives by helping the company sponsor more Elephant Pumps • Covid 19 may change how we live, work and socialise but 4R Office’s eco cleaners will help protect you at home and in the office • Stay safe with 4R Office’s return to work guidance and advice on working from home Visit and call 01462 440 388 if you need help or advice. Together we can make a difference.

>>> MBM OMEGA Established in the mid-90s and with roots dating back to 1979, MBM Omega is a leading independent supplier of office supplies and services. The company offers a single source for all business requirements, allowing clients to streamline processes, improve efficiency and reduce costs. As well as providing the day-to-day office supplies that keep your business moving, MBM Omega also offers bespoke sourcing services to meet individual needs as they arise. It claims that whatever your requirement, its vast range of office products and long-standing relationships with specialist business service partners guarantee the best solutions available. The team works closely with clients to ensure its office supplies and business support services are totally aligned with your needs. Find out more by visiting



A return to live events The news that live events can take place from October has been welcomed by many. PA Life looks at the venues which are reopening with Covid-safe processes in place...


>>> ROEHAMPTON VENUES Roehampton Venues - Elm Grove Conference Centre is delighted to have the We’re Good To Go Industry Standard approval and will be opening for smaller meetings of up to 30 people on September 1st. Elm Grove Conference Centre has been reworked, offering guests a safe event space. It can offer:• Dedicated conference entrance and exit • Event management support staff • Social distancing • One-way flow system • Catering in private dining space with outdoor option • Protective screens • Hand sanitising stations • Enhanced cleaning regime • PPE equipment for staff • Revised meeting capacities • Video conferencing Elm Grove Conference Centre also has 31 bedrooms and offers free car parking on site for guests coming further afield.


IMPERIAL VENUES Imperial Venues, Imperial College London, offers more than 100 flexible event spaces in South Kensington. Spaces range from a Grade II listed townhouse with private courtyard garden to modern meeting rooms, classrooms and lecture theatres. Event organisers can take advantage of Imperial’s professional event services, including in-house catering, superb audio-visual equipment, full event management and on-site accommodation during the summer. With such an array of large spaces in a superb central London location, Imperial is suitable for a range of events including meetings, conferences, symposiums, dinners, drinks receptions and more. Imperial Venues has reinforced its exceptionally high standards and set out new guidelines to keep everyone safe when they are running events. The large event spaces allow for effective social distancing, whilst additional safety procedures and deep-cleaning protocols have been added to achieve a high level of cleanliness.

CONFERENCE OXFORD The team at Conference Oxford can’t wait to start welcoming people through its doors again. The 68 University and college venues are busy working to ensure that the correct measures and processes are in place to allow for the safe return of students, staff and, of course, clients. Contact Conference Oxford and you can start planning your next conference, meeting, dinner or wedding with the confidence that it can offer a safe and welcoming environment for you, your delegates and guests. Contact or contact Marie O’Connor direct on marie.



Gift ideas for staff and clients Rewarding staff for working hard during these difficult circumstances is important for businesses. Similarly, a thank you to clients goes a long way when things are tough. PA Life looks at options...


>>> MONTEZUMA’S Founded 20 years ago, from a small, artisan shop in Brighton, Montezuma’s continues to produce locally, and now offers a wide range of delicious chocolate truffles, bars, bites, and buttons in wonderful flavour combinations to tickle the taste buds. New this year are the beautiful, bright gift boxes bursting with chocolate treats and traditional wicker hampers packed with every chocolate goody imaginable. Personalisation is the key to making someone feel really special, and Montezuma’s have lots of unique, customisable products to show you care, from chocolate bars to truffles and from gift boxes to hampers. Create your own gifts for staff and clients with a bespoke message. Montezuma’s chocolate is 100% gluten free, GM free and palm oil free and only uses the highest quality certified cocoa and 100% cocoa butter and, with nearly half the range suitable for vegans, there’s something for everyone. With Montezuma’s you can show you care for the planet too, as all the packaging is either recyclable, compostable or bio-degradable. .


POPKAKERY We have come across a survey which shows that as many as one in six British businesses have sent gifts to the homes of their employees, by way of thanking them for their hard work and ongoing support, with a further one in three considering a similar act of kindness in a bid to boost staff morale. Alcohol and food are the top gifts being sent to employees, it was found. Almost three quarters of gifts had been purchased for employees having to work from home (73%), whilst a fifth were for staff considered essential workers, and still attending their place of work (20%). Some 7% were for furloughed members of the team. The top reason for the gift was by way of thanking them for their hard work, dedication and continued support during what is proving to

be a particularly difficult period. Popkakery has an extensive range of letterbox treats and gift boxes which can be sent to your colleagues or clients at multiple addresses. The company uses sturdy premium gift postal boxes and can add your logo or a message to the lid and include a gift message as well as branding on the products inside. Personalised ribbons are available too. Boxes are filled with the most delicious treats as well as the all-time favourites sweets. With a selection of vegan and gluten free products,

there is something for everyone. A great way to boost morale is to send one of the boxes which contain sweets, brownies, cake pops, rocky road or iced logo cookies. But Popkakery can also send bespoke requests so get in touch and let the team know what you want to send. Tel: 0203 397 0529


The Good Food Guide Like everything else, business lunches and dinners, along with team lunches, have changed dramatically. Thankfully, there are a number of companies which are offering some exciting options. PA Life tucks in its napkin and provides some suggestions...



PAELLA FELLA Paella Fella has been successfully catering for corporate events since 2009. From team parties to companywide events and large-scale conventions, and everything in between. Consider then the impact on a business like ours when suddenly events can no longer take place? Gulp. Yep that was exactly our reaction when the government implemented measures to promote social distancing in response to Covid-19. The impact of Covid-19 measures could not have been more immediate on our business. Social distancing. Working from home. No mass gatherings. No business. Paella Fella went from being a thriving corporate caterer, with a pipeline of events in the diary, to suddenly having our diary wiped clean. No more events. At least for the foreseeable future.

So where does Covid-19 leave a catering business with no businesses to cater? We took an executive decision to fast-track a Corporate Delivery service to ensure that we could still service the keyworkers and businesses that have remained open. In less than 10 days we were able to take a plan to market, with a robust contactless procedure to safeguard our customers and team. The response has been phenomenal, with loyal customers and local

businesses jumping at the chance to support our business, whilst enjoying freshly cooked paella and tapas delivered direct to their workplace. It couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be easier to pre-order your corporate delivery using our new online ordering platform. Simply visit the Home Delivery page on our website and follow the ordering process. Larger catering needs can be quoted, booked and invoiced directly with our team by calling 01342 777846 or emailing Paella Fella provides premium corporate catering and prides itself on helping savvy businesses to deliver successful corporate events with inclusive catering for all dietary tastes. www.paellafella.



>>> GRAZING Here at Grazing, our mission has always been to make the working day a little easier and whole lot tastier. COVID-19 isn’t going to change this mission and we’re now striving to make things even easier and tastier, whilst also ensuring we keep our staff and customers safe at work. Our office Desk Dine delivery service is the perfect way to keep your team well fed, safely in your workplace bubble. With super simple online ordering for individuals, groups, the whole office, meetings and hospitality, all of our food is safely individually


NESTLE Nestlé Professional has launched a toolkit to help large workplaces and contract caterers identify the key concerns of the returning workforce. With two in five consumers nervous about returning to the workplace, the toolkit compiles industry knowledge and expertise designed to build trust with customers and ensure that they’re being welcomed back to a happy and safe environment that they’ll feel comfortable being in. According to expert insight, there are three key areas of concern for consumers returning to the workplace: safety and hygiene, quality and trust, and sustainability. Research reveals that 58% of consumers will be scrutinising what

packaged and delivered to your office, fully labelled and ready to enjoy. We even offer same-day ordering for teams of fewer than 20, and meals for groups of all sizes can be pre-ordered. With daily and weekly-changing menus, we’ve endless variety to keep your team well fuelled, productive and engaged. Our service is contract free and, with options for meals to be charged to a company account or for individuals to pay for themselves, we’ve got solutions for businesses of all size. From teams of 5 to 500, we can easily scale up our services as more of your team returns to work.

Delivering across central London for breakfast and lunch, using our awesome cargo bikes from our renewable energy powered kitchens, our food is not only great tasting, it’s good for the planet too. Learn more about Grazing or place an order at For your first order, use the code PALIFE50 for £50 credit (minimum £50 spend required). Questions or just want to chat? Our friendly team is also on hand Monday to Friday, so give us a shout on 0207 283 2412 or drop us a line at orders@

they eat from venues more carefully than before COVID-19, with 83% expecting hygiene and safety standards to have increased. In addition to implementing essential safety precautions, insight in the toolkit advises providing healthier food options based on changing consumer eating habits, and introducing systems that will allow social distancing to take place, eg. pre-ordering online or mobile app solutions and delivery services. The uncertainty and unpredictability caused by COVID-19 means that worker wellbeing will be equally important in the new workplace and

promoting breaks will be key to alleviating post-lockdown anxiety. Visit to find out more.


Keeping teams connected in lockdown Staff motivation has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic and with most of the country still working from home. Companies have adapted well, hosting weekly quizzes and ‘socials’, but here are some additional options you might like to consider...


CRESCENDO The legacy of the recent global events are set to be a catalyst for the biggest change in people’s working arrangements in a lifetime, as technology has proved that working from home is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a real viable option to the office. So once the office environment is reconfigured and safe, some thought

should be given to what a longer term remote working life could look like and what we can do to keep the team spirit alive – and fortunately there is help at hand. Fruitful team events have been delivering fresh, creative and meaningful team interactions for some of the world’s leading companies for over a decade – and they have embraced the shift in the need for virtual interactions. Fully hosted for your team, these virtual interactions last up to an hour and can engage small teams of 12 up to much larger groups too. Here’s our pick of the bunch:-

the information, continually relying on D.I Butler to re-enact vital exchanges. Which team will guess ‘whodunnit’?

Murder Mystery Once ‘gathered’, the live online host D.I. Butler introduces the alarming fact that crime is on the up and he must, with the help of the audience, solve the latest murder. Working in teams, the ‘criminologists’ must disseminate

Gameshow Teams compete in various rounds, from Trivia, Music, Visual and interactive in their very own ‘live’ quiz show, complete with game show host and live marking! Visit to find out more.

Wellbeing workshops The mindfulness workshop sessions allow your teams to come together, connect, and learn new theories, techniques and tools that will positively impact their sense of wellbeing. A live and interactive magic and illusion show This live performance features a variety of interactive magic and mind-reading to enjoy from the comfort of behind your screen.


We’ve all gone ‘virtual’ over the past few months, but that hasn’t stopped us bringing together the PA Life Club members for chats, learnings and more. And we have more lined up for the next couple of months... Proudly sponsored by



As the world locked its doors and working from home became the ‘new normal’, PA Life took networking, learning and more online.

A series of webinars and virtual meet-ups have been held, including sessions with Fruitful, London Jet Charter, Not Just Travel, IET and Blue Hat Team Building.

We’re delighted that feedback has been great “Although I have contact with my teams, I’m enjoying seeing other faces too”. So, of course, we have more lined up:

QWellcome Collection Virtual Showround September 14th QKB20 Virtual Meet-Up & Games - September 21st.


The PA Life LIVE digital conference debuted in June (see right for information on September’s event) and gave 100+ PAs and EAs the opportunity to enjoy a full day of learning and inspiration. Event partners included Appetite For Business, Borough Box, Brushbox, Crescendo, DRP Group, Eventify, Inspire Me Travel, Intelligent Finger


Printing, National Express, Not Just Travel, Parker Car Services, London Jet Charter, Steamed Egg, TBR Global, Innoventive, Ductwork Compliance, Teagpigs, Penguins and Warwick Conferences. A big thank you to everyone who participated. And we look forward to seeing you again - virtually for our September event!


3 Register for the PA Life Summit


Join the Wellness Revival Festival

The PA event of the year returns on November 19th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf. Experience a day of private meetings with corporate suppliers of venues, corporate gifting, hospitality and travel managers, plus plenty of networking. Visit

This one-day virtual event is being hosted by PA Life in association with Eventwell. It takes place on September 16th and will cover yoga, meditation, plus talks on wellbeing and mastering goals. Find out more at


Networking, learning and things to keep in mind

4 Visit The Soul Camp Give your wellbeing a boost by seeking out The Soul Camp on YouTube where you can enjoy a series of inspiring videos covering Singing Bowls, Alpha Breath Dynamics, Meditation and more. Search YouTube for The Soul Camp and keep an eye for our regular updates from them on


2 Attend PA Life LIVE

Learn New Skills

After its super successful debut in June, the digital conference returns on September 30th to provide another full day of learning. Sessions will cover Returning to a New Normal in the Office; Navigating Safe Business Travel; The Return of Live Events & Managing Successful Virtual Events; Team-Building and Gifting. Free to attend, you can find out more at

PA Life’s Online Learning bundle allows you to buy a bundle of over 100 courses for just £99 if you’re a PA Life Club member. These courses would cost over £890 individually, so you’re making a huge saving on boosting your skills and those of your teams. The bundle covers everything from Microsoft Office techniques, through areas of HR, to Event Management and beyond. Find out more at



Work & life Kerry Ferguson is EA to the Head of Finance & Administration at legal and professional services group Ince Gordon Dadds LLP. She tells Lisa Carter what she enjoys about her role, the challenges and how sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s coped with lockdown... How did you get your current job? I joined the ďŹ rm 10 years ago as a Legal Secretary/Secretarial Co-ordinator to the Head of Property. After she left the ďŹ rm I was offered a role in marketing or as a ďŹ&#x201A;oat secretary. I opted to take on the ďŹ&#x201A;oat role whilst still co-ordinating. Our ďŹ rm went on to acquire a few other companies and I got stuck in assisting various departments including HR, and the CEO in the process. I was then approached by our CEO to take on the role as PA to the Head of Finance and Administration, as well as assisting our CEO on all his conďŹ dential matters. I was promoted to Executive Assistant shortly after that. What is the best thing about your job? Honestly, I love every aspect of my role because it is so varied and demanding. However, the best thing is knowing just how much I am valued and appreciated by my boss. He never hesitates to send me an email or give me a call to say

thank you for all my hard work, which I personally ďŹ nd rewarding. And the most challenging? Every day is a challenge, and one of them is sharing an office with my boss, (thank goodness we have a great working relationship). It can become quite challenging at times as he is in constant demand which means work colleagues are in and out wanting meetings with him, and it can interrupt your ďŹ&#x201A;ow of work. But it is all part and parcel of the job at the end of the day. How has lockdown been for you, personally? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Expect the unexpectedâ&#x20AC;? - that is what I say. You never know what may happen, as we all found out this year! Working for a large international law ďŹ rm meant agile working was already in place for all partners, fee earners and PAs. The beneďŹ ts have been saving on travel (a fair

amount), being at home for my son after school and being able to eat earlier. The downside is not being able to get a wet signature as and when you need it, and I also miss socialising with colleagues. Did you work from home before lockdown? No, as this is not part of my contract. But the option is there for emergencies. Would you like to continue with ďŹ&#x201A;exible working options going forward? I would love that option and, personally, I think we could see this happening all over the country going forward. How do you relax after a busy day? I am blessed in having a beautiful garden with a summer house, which is where I love to relax after work, as it has everything in there, including a Gin Bar! It gives me time to catch up with my hubby and son after a hard dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work.

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PA Life Magazine July/August  

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