Behind every successful MD, FD, CEO, Business Executive or Industry Leader lies an assiduous, attentive and dynamic force keeping the wheels turning and the bolts in place; these are called PAs or Personal Assistants or Executive Assistants. Of all the PAs we deal with at A&G Corporate Travel, I am always surprised at their endless task list. They are indeed a master of many trades, and I am constantly in awe by how they manage it all. After speaking to many PAs, it is obvious they are always under pressure to complete daily tasks which they seem to manage and do so rather effortlessly! We wanted to find out what were the challenges they faced and what advice and support they would find valuable as a PA in charge of planning a number of business trips.

Challenge 1 Time zones

Surprisingly one of the most significant challenges PAs face was the communication with their offices abroad. Personal Assistants based in the UK needing to speak to the PA’s or Executives in Australia, Asia and America can prove quite challenging trying to coordinate times.  We talked to Hayley a PA, who mentioned: “I am constantly communicating with several offices in many countries each week, and it can be time-consuming, confusing and challenging trying to remember not only time zones but also daylight saving times in each country.” Solution:  After carrying out some research and finding this coming up as a common issue, we decided to add a timezone link onto our website. This will make it easier for our PAs to manage their time when dealing with offices abroad. The link allows you to quickly see the various times to any country so you can coordinate meetings or calls accordingly. If you are communicating with the same office/country each week, another option is to use your clock on your desktop or Mac that allows you to change your control panel. The easiest way to do this is going to ‘control panel’, select ‘desktop gadgets’ and select clock hover over the clock to change the clock options to the time overseas. On a Mac drag your dashboard applications onto the desktop, click on the clock. Click ‘i’ for ‘info’ in the lower right-hand corner. Select the location and click “Save.”

Challenge 2 Time Management and Workload

Some PAs we work with are supporting multiple executives; this can become a difficult task especially when prioritising. For Personal Assistants that work for international businesses, organising travel is a crucial part of the job, and although most companies will use a travel management company, there are ways that you can reduce stress and make it easier for yourself. Solution: Knowing your Executive’s preferred airline, seating, loyalty card details, also preferred times of flights, cabin, budget; is identified as challenging for new PAs and Executive Assistants. Most PAs we spoke to know this information like they know their date of birth! However, when managing itineraries for multiple people, this can prove a complicated task. Most travel management companies will keep this information all on file and once given you shouldn’t have to provide this information again. Experienced Personal Assistants mentioned it is essential to have all the details in one concise itinerary, having the flight details and hotels details, transfer, seating particulars all together to make it easier for the traveller. Again the travel management company you are dealing with should be putting all this information together for you, saving your time and effort. Putting this itinerary together shouldn’t be left to the PA.  So if you are receiving flights and hotels bookings separately from your agent, ask your travel management company to make it easier for you and put it all together, saving you time to focus on other critical daily tasks.

Challenge 3: Dealing with change

In most companies, meetings are continually changing or cancelled and therefore impact on any travel arrangements you have put in place. This adds pressure to a PAs already extensive ‘To-do’ list. Solution:  One challenge we have recognised is the need for Executives and CEOs to have flexibility, this can be difficult when as a PA or Executive Assistant you have a budget to stick to, but booking flexible and fully refundable flights where possible, can save your time and money in the long run while avoiding stressful situations. To find out more information on business travel or to enquire contact us on 0207 183 0216 Written by: Micala Sansom, Scarlet Digital Marketing