Opinion: When are ‘out of office’ requests out of order?

Out of order

As an assistant of any kind can be asked to work hours around the clock for your boss. If that means booking a last-minute flight at 2am or arranging a last-minute meeting at the end of the day, then that’s what you do. But, are out of office requests reasonable? And if so, where is the line. PA Life staff writer Vincenzo Ferrara finds out more…

At an event recently, I was speaking to several PAs about the requirements of being an assistant in their positions. We were speaking about the ‘out of hours’ work required from an assistant and how it’s part and parcel of the job. However, what surprised me was the different tasks these PAs had been asked.

From the reasonable to the professional to the downright lazy, the PAs I spoke to had been asked a lot of requests out of hours.

The first question I asked everyone was ‘How do you feel about out of hours requests from your boss’? It came as no surprise to me that all of the assistants I was gathered with said that they see no issue with out of hours work occasionally depending on the level and requirements of their boss. One even went as far as to say: “If you become an assistant and expect to work nine to five then leave at the end of the day, you have chosen the wrong career path.”

In my mind, I wanted to know what everyone thought was acceptable to be asked and where the line stands? I questioned what were the tasks that people think are acceptable to be asked? Arranging travel, sorting out accommodation, reserving restaurant and booking meetings were seen throughout the group as typical and acceptable.

The questions then turned to what tasks were deemed unreasonable out of hour requests, a lot of the answers from the PAs involved in the conversation were debated between each other. Some saw the requests as reasonable and others as, well, unprofessional and lazy from their employer. Some examples of these topics include:

  •  Out of hour parking fine payments
  • Arranging a last minute personal family meal to be delivered to their boss’ house
  •  Receiving a call late after midnight to drop off or pick up dry cleaning, even though the items themselves weren’t urgent
  •  Being called whilst on holiday to sort something menial at work
  •  Receiving a drunk call from there boss after an evening out, to order them a kebab

I found it interesting to find that the PAs debated all of the answers above, some saying that the requests were totally out of order and others seeing it as just part of the job.

At the end of the day, you need to know your boss and a great way of doing this is to interview them and find out what they expect from you when you first get the job. It allows you to discuss what you and them find acceptable and what you are willing to compromise on, so it will come as no surprise at the end of the day if you ever need to turn around as say, ‘this isn’t part of my job role’.

If you have any advice for any other PAs about when to say no or about knowing your worth in regards to what is required from the job, please email:

Due to the information released by the PAs involved, we will not identify any of those involved whilst we document their stories.