Many people find balancing their personal and professional lives difficult, especially with modern technology making it increasingly hard to differentiate between work and home life.
For those in the private staffing sector – especially Personal Assistants – this is an incredibly common challenge and one which creates burn-out on a frequent basis amongst top level PAs. The majority of clients we look after at 19 London are highly successful and incredibly busy individuals and families, and in the main they have made their money by working 24/7 throughout their career, at a hundred miles per hour. Once they employ staff to manage aspects of their personal and business lives – whether it is a Personal or Executive Assistant, House or Estate Manager, Security or any type of support they may need – their staff quickly become consumed in their principal’s whirlwind. At first it may seem exciting, but the excitement and adrenaline quickly turn into stress, unhappiness and exhaustion if not managed properly.
So how do you draw a line and create boundaries when you’re working for one of the most successful people on the planet?
This is the hardest part. You don’t want to create tensions or the wrong impression before you’ve even started, however if you do this in the right way you will reap many benefits during your time with your new principal. You might travel with your principal on top of being with them 6 or even 7 days a week. Add in to this travelling by private jet and there will be very few times you are actually not side by side with your principal during work trips. It’s easy to say yes to everything your principal wants, especially when you’re somewhere new and unknown, but saying yes the first time makes it harder to say no the second time.
Laying boundaries from day one will ensure your principal knows that you like to have your own personal space and regardless of how well you get on, it gives you an extra few hours each day to manage your own life outside of your work challenges and create respect from your principal to give you the room you need to manage your own life.
Regardless of where you are in the world, you should make it clear prior to commencing your new role that if you’re based in the office, or travelling, you still require your time off. When travelling, it’s easy to merge weekends into work, particularly in unfamiliar places, and quite quickly your principal will naturally assume that this is the norm when taking you away. The amount of time you spend with your principal can often result in very close relationships forming. Some people are fine with this, however – and trust us from our own personal experience in these roles – it will make it increasingly difficult for you when employer/employee issues arise or when you want a new challenge, or even a simple discussion around your pay or other benefits.
It is always best to create boundaries from the offset and take a step back. Your boss isn’t your friend, you’re there to protect them and manage their lives, but this doesn’t mean you should seamlessly step into their shoes yourself. Keep it professional. It will really help you in the long run.
Separate your personal and professional life
Ask for a separate work phone rather than simply have your personal phone reimbursed. This may sound like a simple thing but it will really help you switch off when you need to and differentiate between when a friend or family member is calling, or your boss.
You can suggest from the outset with your principal that they can always call you in an emergency, but rather than call every time they need something that isn’t urgent, they can text or email you instead. The majority of things will seem urgent to your principal – this will usually be natural for them when their mind is racing around on different ideas and projects every day – but as long as they know you are managing tasks quickly and effectively regardless of whether they call you or email/text it to you, they should allow you to manage it in your own time. It will also prevent you from receiving multiple calls a day for simple things that could be kept to a short text or email (and you can manage your own workload better and keep it in order).
If you have other responsibilities in your personal life, such as a partner or child that need fitting into your daily schedule, be open about these straight away. This will allow you to find a balance that works for you both. Your principal should be honest from the outset about whether this will work for them too.
It’s easy to make your career your priority when you’re in a new, exciting role, working for someone successful, but you will quickly become consumed by it if you do not set boundaries and your personal life will undoubtedly suffer, and so will your health and happiness.
If you’re lucky enough to have a support team around you, ensure you share out the responsibilities fairly. Trust plays an important past in delegating when you know you can do the job well yourself, but if you spread yourself too thinly you won’t perform at the best of your ability, let alone start to burn yourself out. Be clear in your communication with other staff on how you want tasks managed and what outcome you expect and let them roll with it. Don’t micromanage and scrutinize their every move. People will only learn by making their own mistakes and as long as you’ve been clear in your communication, tasks should run smoothly and make your life ten times easier.
Switch off time
It’s easy to think after making yourself indispensable to your principal that taking time off may result in your principal pondering whether to get a second you, or even, start thinking about replacing you. However, if this is a real concern and possibility, perhaps the role isn’t right for you in the long run – it will only result in making you anxious and adding to your daily stresses. You need to make time for yourself to recharge and relax, and setting your boundaries and using your holiday leave is vital for this. If you really have to, match your holiday leave with your principal’s so that you are both switched off at the same time and you can come back full of energy, focused and clear headed. They will hopefully switch off, and then so can you.
We all know how demanding some principals can be – that is part of the reason we work in this industry and why we thrive in it – but nothing should be more important than your own health and happiness and maintaining positive relationships to those close to you, so having open discussions with your employer from day one will really help you in the years to come.
If you’re looking for your next Private Personal Assistant role, get in touch today.