As promised, here is the article from my co-worker who worked for a period of time as a replacement assistant. I enjoyed reading her side of the story.
"Put yourself in the shoes of the professional you will be working for. They come into the office everyday with a list of things that need doing, and that “magic fairy”—you know, like the one at home that refills the toilet paper roll, and mysteriously returns dirty clothes to their clean state—goes quietly through her (or his) day completing each task required. Then one day, the “magic fairy” takes a vacation, and those daily tasks are taking longer to accomplish, questions are being asked, and your mail is not where it is supposed to be. What is going on? How can this be? How can I possibly function without my right-hand girl (or guy)?
Floaters beware! You have a tough job ahead of you. You are to effortlessly slide into the chair of an assistant who knows the likes and dislikes of her/his professional by heart. The assistant knows where the files are, the order they are filed in; and who the contact for each file is. He/She understands the “chicken scratch” referred to as writing, and they have set up their computer and desk area to suit their particular needs. As a float, here are a few tips I think you will need to remember in order to succeed at your job:
1) Be cognizant of the fact that you are a temporary replacement. The desk you are occupying is not yours. Please, do not rearrange a desktop, or snoop through drawers unless the assistant has given you her permission to do so.
2) The computer at the assistant’s desk should be regarded in the same way as the desk itself. Do not change the settings, or desktop picture or colour scheme.
3) No matter how good you are at your job, YOU are not the professonal’s regular assistant. A good majority tend to pass you only what is absolutely necessary while their assistant is gone.
4) Take the time and sit down with the assistant you are going to replace. Ask questions. Keep the following questions in mind:
a) What are the assistant's computer and voice-mail passwords?
b) Is there anything coming up that you need to be aware of (travel arrangements, meetings etc.)? Do you have all the information you will need?
c) Where is your active file list kept? Is it up to date?
d) Where are your filing cabinets? Are there any active files kept in a separate place?
e) How do you want your e-mails handled?
5) There is a lot of information for you to learn and digest. Be sure to write instructions down, and leave yourself “cheat sheets”.
6) Ask the Assistant if there are any “time consuming but not experience heavy” jobs, he or she would like accomplished while away. If there are any odd jobs that he or she would like completed now is the time to do them, as it makes your day more productive. The days can be very long if you are not busy.
7) Filling in for another Assistant does not mean it’s time to surf the internet and catch up on your personal e-mail. That is unprofessional!"
Submitted by Darlene Hale, Administrative Assistant (former Floater Assistant)