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Claiming space as a ‘distributed community’ advocate.

October 12, 2020 / United Kingdom

Recently, three power PAs – including Uber for Business’ very own Rochelle Biss – came together in an hour-long webinar to discuss the role of the personal assistant working from home.

The PAs shared the resources, tips and tactics that were helping them adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, to better support their teams and safeguard their own mental and physical health too. 

One of the most powerful ideas was Rochelle’s discussion of the EA/PA as a community advocate – responsible for bringing teams together and acting as the gatekeeper of culture. 

How has the role of PA changed working from home? 

PAs typically work in a fast-moving, pressure-cooker environment and wear many hats. Abigail Jones – EA at Facebook – talks about the two parts of the typical office-based PA role: ‘bread and butter’ support, and strategic support.  

Those bread and butter tasks might include:

  • Managing calendars
  • Booking meetings
  • Raising POs
  • Processing expenses
  • Booking and managing travel
  • Organising team summits, meetings and events

While the other part is about being a strategic business partner, working on the bigger picture to support the company to achieve its wider goals. 

Since working from home, Abigail points out, there’s been fewer bread and butter tasks because people aren’t working, collaborating or travelling as normal. Instead, the position of PA has become more about strategic support, helping bring and keep teams together.  

Rochelle expands on this idea, talking about how she’s an integral part of the culture of the teams she works with – a role that’s intensified since working from home. 

Rochelle currently supports two international Uber for Business executives across two areas of the business, working across two very different, geographically dispersed teams of more than 100-people each.

The role of community advocate isn’t simple anyway, especially when operating across hundreds of people like Rochelle. It’s made dramatically more complex as a distributed community advocate, working across a hybrid workforce to support people in new ways to overcome new challenges.  

For personal assistants working from home, the major question is how to step into that role, to support the business strategically through what’s probably the biggest challenge it will ever face.

How can PAs bring the hybrid workforce together? 

The unnegotiable starting point is for PAs to look after themselves properly. As the old adage goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup and it’s easy to overwork at the moment. 

Classic wisdom holds true, like maintaining a good routine, exercising regularly, and carving out (and taking!) breaks, however frantic your diary. Nourishing body and mind with good food was consistent advice from the webinar – and using apps to connect with food if supermarkets or cupboards are bare. 

Turning attention outwards, PAs should embrace their role as a central hub for the team, connecting team members with resources, tools and answers they might need.

PAs and EAs can be instrumental in bringing people together even when they’re geographically apart – for example, by scheduling regular all-hands meetings or virtual socials.

That could be an especially powerful tactic when combined with the power of food – getting individual meals delivered to the whole team for a Friday night social, for example, wherever they’re working from. 

Using simple technology to centralise payment and expensing according to pre-defined budgets would make that easy, without adding to PAs’ already-heavy workloads.

This blog is part of The team that Eats together initiative, a content series exploring what normal looks like now, and how to enhance the working world to meet evolved employee expectations.

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The views and opinions expressed are based on the research conducted and they do not intend to present an official policy of Uber or any of its subsidiaries. Examples of advice mentioned in this article are based on open source information and assumptions made within the article are not reflective of Uber’s position.