SECRETARIAL: Bulletin Board; Have a break - not a breakdown

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WHAT IS your favourite sandwich? A new survey by Maine-Tucker Recruitment shows that it does not matter, as almost a quarter of support staff do not take a lunch break. "This is a huge figure putting themselves at the mercy of stress in the name of work," cautions Sally Hollings, director of business development. "It is now a legal requirement that employees must be allowed a break of 20 minutes minimum for every six hours they work, and support staff should take advantage of this. It's all too easy to assume that the longer you work, the more you'll get done. The truth is that lack of breaks leads to a reduction in productivity." Anyone for tea?

SPEAKING OF tea, the Institute of Directors has attacked the Government for over-regulating businesses, after being hit by a "teabag tax". It received a bill for several thousand pounds for not declaring the provision of tea and coffee to staff as a benefit in kind. Be warned: in the age of Big Brother, secretarial staff who lie for their bosses are increasingly likely to be caught out. Consider Christine Allan, who recently found herself having to come clean in court about creating documents to smooth a multi-million-pound deal. She told the court that lying was "standard practice" in the City and that, to a certain extent, her actions were meant to protect her boss. Fawn Hall was found out when she showed extreme loyalty to her boss, Colonel Oliver North, by shredding documents of national importance in the Iran-Contra scandal in America. According to an office ethics survey by Nan De Mars, author of You Want Me to Do What?, a quarter of secretaries know about co-workers or bosses falsifying expenses and altering time-sheets or even the minutes of board meetings. Twenty per cent have been privy to the preparation of a document based on blatant falsehoods, and 60 per cent have heard confidential information openly discussed. Another report, in US News and World Report, said that 88 per cent of secretaries admitted lying for the benefit of their boss.

MOST OF us have done it - dashed off a quick e-mail, knowing it is not as well prepared as a fax or letter. Adecco recruitment consultancy advises that it can severely harm business relationships. The two biggest "don'ts" are writing in capitals - the equivalent of shouting - and using huggy, kissy "emotions" such as [] or :-), which are seen as gushy.

IF YOU plan to attend any of the endless work-related awards evenings over the next few months and you are concerned about how utterly boring they are, consider this little story. Advertising staff who attended their latest awards evening at the Hilton were aghast when they visited the lavatories. Why, they wondered, did the lavatory doors at such a well- to-do establishment have posters reading: "Dump" and, "Wee" attached to them? The answer: it was an ad campaign by the agency RAA Sprague Gibbons. "`Dump' your current ad agency," and, "`Wee' deliver award-winning creativity," were their messages. Probably wise not to try such initiatives yourself, though, if you want to keep your job.

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