Diary of a Secretary: Taking your home to work

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FORGET "TAKING work home" as a much-used phrase in the Nineties office. According to a new survey, it might as well be replaced by "bringing home to work". For proof, look no further than typical workspaces where posters of Jarvis Cocker and photos of deceased grandmothers are a commoner sight than faxes and e-mails. Even if your desk is so clean that you can see your reflection in it, it probably says more about you than you think. "Desks reveal their owners' innermost secrets, inhibitions, lifestyle and ambitions," explains psychologist Donna Dawson. Bit the most obvious give-away has to be the screen-saver. `Flying Through Space' is a sign of a dull personality, while those changing shapes which resemble complex scaffolding show high intellect. And as for those who have their names scrolled across the screen in various sizes, need we say more?

IF YOU don't know your PA from your office manager or your senior secretary from your receptionist, join the club. According to recruitment agents Office Angels, although the titles suggest a variety of roles, the jobs themselves are often identical. So what should modern secretarial staff be called? Business assistants? Personal and research assistants? Anything but "the girls" would help for a start.

MENTION SEASONAL Affective Disorder and the first image that springs to mind is dark December days and depression, right? Wrong. According to the SAD Association (I know, I know), recent British weather has been so gloomy that many are suffering torment right now. What's more, it's work that is being affected most severely of all. "Research shows that when the sun is shining, people are more credulous, give bigger tips, make more sales and are generally more successful in business," explains Dr Lance Workman, a biological psychologist, "but when it is dreary - as it has been lately - the opposite tends to happen." He has found that 11 per cent of women and five per cent of men suffer from symptoms such as falling asleep in meetings, being rude to clients and feeling shattered by 2pm. SAD may not be the word - "normal" might suffice.

WANT TO work abroad? Well, you're in the right job, for there's a severe shortage of top business secretaries and receptionists in Europe. According to an independent survey of small to medium UK companies likely to set up in another EU country, 72 per cent claimed that finding good quality secretaries would be their biggest problem, with finding good quality receptionists a close second at 62 per cent. Bon voyage.

BEWARE OF the latest workplace danger -- office plants. The fast-increasing range means that unless you know your stuff, what started as a small cutting may, six months down the line, have taken over the entire reception area and have a small, independent eco-system in its outer branches. Alternatively, that expensive tropical number could drop dead in no time due to a diet of cigarette ends and cold tea. The answer? Invest in a palm. They're available in any size, and never need watering, pruning or looking after. And there's not many living things you can say that about in an office these days.

The Temp is on holiday