Secretarial: Key strokes: the mark of a man

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SLICK SUIT, macho aftershave, designer stubble... gone are the days when this was all it took for Office Man to have sex appeal. According to a report from The Learning Company, he now has to type well too. A staggering 71 per cent of female respondents said men who can type are more attractive. Rochelle, a PA for a west London insurance firm explains: "Typing clumsily with two fingers suggests impotence." Real men in the Nineties know about computers, she believes, so touch-typing gives them a masculine edge. "Men who type are prepared to disregard traditional stereotypes," adds Ingrid Collins, a consultant psychologist. "This is very attractive to women. It means they are open to more possibilities, so their relationships are bound to have more creativity."

ANYONE WORKING abroad over the Millennium may need to get set for disaster. IBM has warned staff in isolated locations to prepare "as if they were expecting a hurricane or tornado". It is thought staff could be left without basic services, especially where electricity or transport systems may crash due to the computer bug. One Internet firm has already cashed in, offering a "survival pack" service for global businesses. Russia, apparently, is most at risk.

FOR THOSE secretaries who work for more than one boss - each of whom always claims to have the highest priority work for you to do - help may be at hand. Talk to your immediate superior, firmly but politely, explaining that you are struggling, says the Institute of Personnel and Development. Ask to discuss the options. Perhaps you need an assistant. Perhaps you need to meet all the bosses to explain how much time you can devote to each of them. Communication is key, says the IPD.

TOUCHING COLLEAGUES is no longer taboo. That's the latest message from Allan Pease, the Australian social researcher with an interest in body language. He claims touching while communicating improves productivity, rapport and co-operation. "Certain body language such as a light touch on the other person's elbow for three seconds or less, reinforced by nodding the head can help strengthen our actions leading to a more positive outcome," he explains. Pease claims that Britons touch each other less than any other civilised nation. "Women and gay men are much better at communicating and this is down to being tactile," he declares.

THINK CAREFULLY before you decide who to approach for a reference. A US army colonel is reported to have written a reference for a fellow officer that said: "He got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching." Subsequent research found another reference was written for a US marines officer which said: "His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity."