The New Role of the Executive Assistant

The world of work is changing. How and where we work has been evolving.

It’s fair to say that a shift began a few years ago, but the pandemic accelerated the changes in workplaces. We’ve become much more digital-based and in many cases, that means a new set of expectations from customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

In this world, corporations need to level up in order to make their executives more successful in the new economy. One area to look at is the job roles in your organization and how you get assistance.

For many companies, the ability to work virtually wasn’t seriously considered before COVID-19. You may have faced a scramble to enable remote work in the face of stay-at-home orders – you might have quickly found that remote work can come with its own set of challenges!

The ability to work virtually isn’t a given — it requires a different skill set than what many have been accustomed to. The role of the executive assistant and others is changing – here’s how:

The new “virtual” economy

One thing that 2020 taught many companies very quickly was the need to adapt and overcome. For many, they had to make a shift to a virtual way of work at very short notice, as stay-at-home orders swept across the globe.

There was a scramble to ensure technology was in place to keep staff connected and able to do their jobs, but more than that, companies discovered they needed clear systems and processes to ensure work went smoothly. Some employees rose to the occasion, and in some cases, companies are still trying to find the right combination of skills to make remote work successful.

In the months since, several companies have discovered that remote work is actually to their advantage. They can lower their costs, for example, by not needing as much office space. They’ve also discovered that many of their employees enjoy it and are enthusiastically productive. Avoiding commutes has given people back valuable time in their days, which can either be used for productive endeavors, or to take much-needed time-out. A Gallup poll found three out of five workers who had been doing their jobs from home since the pandemic would prefer to remain remote as much as possible.

To that end, more and more companies are announcing that their workers can keep working virtually, either full-time or at least a couple of days each week. This Build Remote article reveals a list of companies that are sticking with remote work, with big names such as Twitter, JP Morgan, Verizon, and Deloitte among them. 

Executive assistant

Time to re-think assistant roles

With this major shift toward remote-based work, there are some important things to consider when it comes to any executive assistant (or personal assistant) roles: remote involves a specific skill set. It’s true – remote work just doesn’t suit everyone. 

For example, a Baylor University study examined what makes a person suited to remote work and found that those who enjoyed a high level of autonomy and had high levels of emotional stability did the best. “… an employee’s ability to be autonomous was crucial in helping them avoid strain and improve their overall well-being. However, employees who had high levels of autonomy but decreased levels of emotional stability were prone to becoming stressed out while working.”

That doesn’t mean that people with lower autonomy or emotional stability can’t be trained and supported through remote work, but these would typically be people who might find it challenging. For others, it’s the social aspect. Some people absolutely thrive in an environment where they can easily turn around and chat with a colleague. These people are energized by being around other people and it factors into their own productivity. At home they may feel distant and under-stimulated socially.

The traditional executive assistant role involves being in an office in-person. They typically interact with several people during their working day and are often able to organize their tasks in-person. Of course, that changes with a Virtual Executive Assistant. The nature of the role means that while most of their tasks might look the same overall, the mechanics are different. They have to now interact with everyone at a distance and their organization and communication methods need to adjust accordingly.

It may also be the case that in a remote environment, what you need in an assistant changes. For example, maybe you need them taking more of a hands-on project management role to ensure that the whole team has what they need to be successful remotely.

Is it time to re-think what the executive assistant role looks like? Click To Tweet

Implications for going virtual

There are some other implications to consider when your roles are going remote. For example, what happens to your traditional customer touchpoints? Executive assistants often have a lot of customer contact, especially for things like those “personal touches” – thank-you cards, gifts, notes, tickets to games. It’s not that they can’t do those things remotely, but they need to operate differently in a virtual setting.

What else might look different when you compare an in-person EA role to a virtual one? How you communicate is going to be huge. You might be used to quick, spur-of-the-moment conversations with your EA whenever a thought occurs, but in a virtual environment, communication needs to be much more concise, clear, and easy to find and follow. The virtual EA needs to have robust methods for capturing notes or to-dos – they’re still in that indispensable role where they “make it happen.”

Remote systems and processes might look a lot different. In fact, we’d say an invaluable skill in a virtual EA is their ability to make sense of and create solid systems and processes. It takes the right set of tools and documented processes to make a remote team work seamlessly.

Another thing to consider is the sense of culture and community within your team. In the office environment, an EA is often a cultural agent – promoting and personifying the culture you want in your business. You might need a virtual EA who is still strongly competent at doing this from afar.

Executive assistant

How to evaluate what you need in an EA

It’s a good idea to evaluate what you need in an executive assistant (or in fact, any other job role) in a remote environment. It’s fair to say that some things do need to change in order to better accommodate virtual work.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Have you evaluated your business processes and done a comparison of “then and now” for before vs. remote work?
  • What skills are the most important for your team now? Think about anything that might have increased in importance with remote work.
  • How will you learn of any feedback, and how will you give feedback to your team?
  • Does your current team or assistant have ideas for improving digital processes already?
  • Does your EA have the space and authority they need to update processes where needed? 

Final thoughts

The world of work has changed significantly, with more businesses shifting to virtual work. While many made the move in a hurry, now might be a great time to evaluate what you need long-term in the world of remote work.

Virtual work doesn’t suit everyone, although many have had to adapt. As you evaluate your situation now, consider what you need in order to make remote work successful – the systems, the processes and the people.

Lastly, if you need a reliable, experienced virtual executive assistant, talk to Worxbee today. We source and match up the best virtual executive assistants who bring the strongest resumes. We’d love to find you a great match!

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