PA problems solved

With more and more being asked of employees than ever before, many companies could really do with a few extra staff members to lighten the load.

Unfortunately, due to economic realities, that is not always feasible. When common office problems pile up in the workplace, the biggest challenge can be getting someone to tackle them all. And therein lies the main problem – it should never be the responsibility of just one person.

Best practice for any workplace is to nip these issues in the bud before they are allowed to develop into fully fledged problems. This is where delegation of tasks is so important for companies.

A number of tasks can be carried out by receptionists and personal assistants (PA). However, they can't do it all by themselves. Companies that delegate tasks fairly tend to be well-functioning organisations with a happy workforce.

As well as delegating, there is a huge benefit to companies in outsourcing certain tasks. Outsourcing can be a big help because it frees up your office employees' time and makes them available to tackle more pressing matters.

Here are twenty of the most common office problems, solved by a mixture of outsourcing and shrewd delegation.

1. Missed phone calls

In companies where staff members are in short supply, it is only natural that a number of phone calls will be left unanswered every day, some of which could be hugely important and potentially lucrative to the company.

Phone calls are one of the main links to the outside world and a hugely important tool in carrying out business. Put simply, they should be prioritised at the cost of smaller tasks. Alternatively, engaging with remote support will ensure call are answered in a cost-effective and sensible way.

2. Passing on messages

You've now found an intelligent and well-qualified human being who can take calls, chat to clients and bring a number of conversations to a conclusion.

However, some calls will need to be passed on to specialist individuals. Remote support staff will ensure that important phone correspondence, which can't be concluded there and then, are passed on to the relevant parties.

3. Calendar crossover

Picture the scene: You're the manager of the business and you have a number of important meetings scheduled for next week. However, because you are so busy you have become preoccupied and a number of meetings are now running into each other.

Nobody in a position of such seniority should have to worry about important meetings overlapping into one another. Your PA, and not you, should be tasked with looking after scheduling meetings from here on in. This way, being double-booked will become a thing of the past.

4. Emails unread

We all receive emails from correspondence that we don't want to open because we are under such strict time constraints every day. Realistically, there are only so many emails that a person can get through between the hours of 9am until 5pm.

However, if you are receiving emails that are of direct importance to your business, it is not wise to ignore them.

As more and more emails are left unchecked – some accidentally, others less so – the likelihood that something of high-level importance will be missed increases. Outsource your email management to keep on top of important correspondence.

5. Drafting the right response to emails

It is good practice to reply to as many emails as possible, even if they seem somewhat trivial and unimportant.

If following the step above, your outsourced email support will handle your email correspondence by replying where possible and passing on messages that require specific individual responses.

6. Annual leave is out of control

Granting people their holiday requests but then failing to jot it down, or log the dates on your computer, is a recipe for disaster. Before you know it, you are left even more short-staffed.

This is where delegation of the role is key. Team/department managers should be in charge of the holiday rota and a number of strict rules should be put in place. For example, no more than two team members should be allowed to be on holiday at the same time.

7. Invoices haven't been paid

In order to maintain key business relationships, vendors and freelancers should be paid on time. Late payment is a guaranteed way to bring about an unnecessary deterioration in business relationships.

If you don't have an accounts department in the company, delegate this task to a sharp-minded employee who has an eye on management roles in the future.

8. Data entry

Data entry isn't much fun, but its importance can never be called into doubt. This is an area where you can spare your staff and outsource the role to a remote assistant. Remote PAs are becoming the best way forward for this important role.

9. Office furniture is damaged

All furniture in the office should be in good condition. In order for employees to be productive, they must first be comfortable. Select a dedicated person to field feedback from staff and order new chairs, and any other necessary pieces of furniture, as soon as existing ones are damaged beyond repair.

10. Running out of office stationery

Offices need to be stocked up with relevant supplies of stationery so that employees can draft notes and perhaps even go through sales figures on a whiteboard.

Build a relationship with a supplier who becomes accustomed to your company's needs and can track when your stationery is running low.

11. Organising incoming and outgoing post

Despite its reported demise, post hasn't been completely phased out by email. In fact, it remains an important everyday feature of the office and it needs specialist attention from a person with exceptional organisational skills. This is a role for a receptionist or PA.

12. Organising training days

It is healthy for employees to consistently upskill. The benefit of this is felt by the person and their employer. A PA can examine schedules, confirm individual availability and report back with a date for a training day that suits all relevant parties.

13. Greeting visitors to your premises

If an important visitor drops by to discuss business, they should be warmly greeted and offered a cup of tea. It would be extremely bad etiquette to expect visitors to find their own way to a specific part of the building. A friendly receptionist is ideal for this role.

14. Organising travel arrangements

Sometimes, staff members may have to leave the country on a business assignment. There are so many airlines in operation and hotel chains around the world that choice is rarely an issue, but getting the best deal and keeping costs down definitely is.

Instruct your PA to price up the best travel deals online before the relevant head of department makes the booking.

15. Devising a new office plan

Are employees getting stale with the office layout? Sometimes a change of scenery is just the spur to motivate staff members.

Rearrange the office by moving employees around and encouraging them to foster new relationships. This can breathe fresh life into the entire company and improve employee productivity. This task should be a combined effort between management.

16. Organise a company day out

Never underestimate the impact of dwindling morale among staff. If people are unhappy in work, it will hit the company hard.

All companies should be doing everything they can to keep staff morale high. Task an enthusiastic employee with compiling a list of the best team-bonding days out. These days are proven to boost relationships among workers and, crucially, aid in positive productivity.

17. Compiling sick days and their cost to the company

Ensure that all department heads keep track of sick days and log doctor's notes where applicable. All companies should be on top of employee absenteeism in case it gets out of hand or a worrying pattern emerges.

18. Organising workmen to fix air conditioning

If employees are too cold or too warm in the office, their work will be adversely affected.

In order for employees to work at their highest capabilities, they must be provided with an office space that has an optimum temperature. Task a PA with sourcing a tradesman to fix the problem.

19. Ensuring the first aid box is visible and stocked

Every office should have a person tasked with ensuring that the first aid kit is always stocked with supplies and clearly visible when needed.

Even something as simple as a paper cut needs to be treated with a plaster. There is no excuse for companies not to have a first aid kit.

20. Fire officer

Every company, big and small, should have a fire officer to ensure that employees know where to assemble if the fire alarm goes off.

This role should be delegated to a conscientious member of staff who will ensure that the alarm remains fully functioning and that office fire extinguishers are fit for purpose.