PA Life PA Life PA Life PA Life PA Life

    Brits reveal the most bizarre tasks they’ve been asked to do at work

    • 1

    It would appear PAs aren’t the only ones who get unusual requests. Peeling the pith from satsuma segments, stacking coat hangers and unknotting Christmas lights are among the most bizarre tasks Brits have been asked to do at work, according to new research.

    A study of 2000 workers across the country has revealed a top 50 list of the most unusual – and sometimes inappropriate – tasks assigned to employees. This includes polishing cutlery with vinegar, shredding paper manually, removing hair from hairbrushes and dressing in a sandwich board in public.

    Researchers found requests from the boss sometimes go from the sublime to the ridiculous; one unlucky respondent revealed they were asked to follow another member of staff who left work, as the boss suspected that rather than being ill he was off to the pub. Another, during their military career, was tasked with ironing ordnance survey maps simply so they would lie flat on the wall. And a third was asked to work overtime to allow another colleague to nip home and make love – as his partner was at the fertile point in her month.

    Jeremy Hulme, Chief Executive of working animal charity SPANA, which conducted the study, said: “It’s surprising to see just how many British workers are routinely expected to carry out tasks that are a long way from their job description and that they didn’t sign up for. Many bosses seem comfortable asking their staff to perform duties that are bizarre and beyond the call of duty.

    “However, although having to fulfil menial or unusual tasks can be a frustrating part of working life in the UK, these problems seem very minor compared to the tough working conditions endured every day by working animals in developing countries. These animals work long hours, often carrying back-breaking loads, with no holidays, retirement, or sick days.”

    A number of people surveyed have been asked to clean the toilets or sweep the floors at work, which were widely seen as unreasonable and unexpected requests in non-cleaning roles. One unfortunate respondent was asked to clean her boss’ house as his wife had left him and his sister was coming to visit. Another was asked to babysit a colleague’s children while continuing with their normal workload, while one ‘kind’ boss asked two staff members to dress up as the Easter bunny and deliver Easter eggs to all the other workers.

    Dressing up as a cyber dog for the local library and dressing up as a tomato to hand out leaflets were low points for other respondents. But some of the weird tasks British workers are asked to carry out are surprisingly common – as the top 50 list reveals.

    One in 10 people say they currently work in a job where they are asked to carry out bizarre tasks. But 13% of employees have been so disgruntled about the work they were being asked to do because the tasks were too far removed from their job description that they’ve left the role.

    Jeremy Hulme continues: “The good news is that the majority of people do have a choice, and if a job becomes too inappropriate, difficult, or stressful they can often leave or do something about it.”

    Top 50 unexpected tasks

    1. Sweep the floors
    2. Cleaning toilets
    3. Clearing up rubbish
    4. Feeding animals
    5. Unknotting Christmas lights
    6. Cuddle someone
    7. Type phone contacts into a spreadsheet
    8. Removing hair from hairbrushes
    9. Stack books
    10. Play computer games
    11. Pack and stack boxes
    12. Erecting fences
    13. Wash people’s hair
    14. Plan a wedding
    15. Soak and peel the labels off bottles
    16. Cut pre-made sandwiches into triangles
    17. Peel the pith from satsuma segments
    18. Shredding paper manually due to a broken-down shredder
    19. Polish cutlery with vinegar
    20. Hand grating massive bowls of cheese
    21. Attaching security tags / labels to products
    22. Teach English to foreign colleagues
    23. Remove stitches
    24. Taste testing
    25. Separating security pins from tags
    26. Dressing up as a cartoon character
    27. Stacking coat hangers
    28. Dust books with a paintbrush
    29. Dress in a sandwich board in public
    30. Wear fake tan and wax chest
    31. Wear revealing or indecent clothes to model in
    32. Packing fish
    33. Do all the boss’s Christmas shopping
    34. Cleaning the top of changing room mirrors
    35. Stuff crackers
    36. Colour separate skittles / sweets
    37. Being a Sports mascot
    38. Remove poo from swimming pools
    39. Cleaning up road kill
    40. Post false good comments about the company online
    41. Fire someone, even though it wasn’t your place to do so
    42. Fill donuts with jam
    43. Chopping the heads off kippers
    44. Write Christmas card jokes
    45. Eat dog food
    46. Delete all emails and files from the boss’s computer
    47. Pose as a member of the opposite sex for the day
    48. Spy on senior management
    49. Buy underwear for the boss’s wife
    50. Stand in a line pretending to queue for the sales


  • mm

    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson