The Changing Landscape For Executive Assistants

Smart PA discusses how the advancements of virtual work and AI are effecting the role of personal assistants.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article called ‘the vanishing executive assistant’, in which it detailed how women with no college education were losing access to their personal assistant and virtual assistant positions due to a combination of automation and independent corporate leaders. This article suggested that an office can now run without help from these admin experts and suggested that most tasks can be completed by automation.

We, at SmartPA, humbly disagree. Yes, the workplace is changing, but only for the better.

For the nostalgic among you, the office used to be a relatively drab affair, with executive assistants at the beck and call of their respective executives, often working much longer hours than required. Cue the Mad-men style imagery…

Nowadays, offices and workplaces are required to be places the employees want to be. It may seem obvious, but it has taken until the 21st century for employers to recognise that they should design office spaces that their employees want to occupy. Rows of desks and beige boardrooms are replaced with break out spaces, thinking pods and hot desks, designed to accommodate both a sitting and remote workforce. Boardrooms are all fitted with screens and high-quality sound systems to allow for video conferencing, meaning your team don’t even need to occupy the same geography whilst maintaining effective and efficient collaboration. Whatever WeWork’s situation in the market, their offerings of beer taps and roof terraces are high in demand from the modern workforce.

Where does the executive assistant sit in the new workplace?So where, you may ask, does the executive assistant sit in all this? They are now a remote, virtual powerhouse, embracing the freedom working from home offers whilst maintaining a productive, professional relationship with the executive or executives they are able to support thanks to modern technology. Relationships are built and maintained using video chatting, phone calls and the occasional face to face meeting. The position isn’t vanishing, and demand certainly isn’t diminished, the role of executive assistant has simply now become a virtual assistant. Transcription, diary management, expense collation and even call handling can all be completed from the comfort of the VA’s home.

The women (and men) who fill these positions don’t want to be nailed to a desk in an office, they crave autonomy and a full life, and they deserve nothing less. Our SmartPAs are all given the tools and support required for them to be a success and have the career they have always dreamed of.

As for automation, certain softwares can make life easier, but often these costly systems don’t check every box. We, at SmartPA HQ, know that these outsourced, back office and administration tasks still require the human touch. They don’t necessarily need to be completed in the same building, but they definitely require the input of a person. Someone with judgement, experience and who can offer a support system that integrates seamlessly with your business. A smart PA, we hear you say? Yes exactly.

From our own tribe of SmartPAs, we have seen an interesting trend in the last 5 years, shifting from a 95% female community to around 80%, suggesting it isn’t only women who want to take advantage of being their own boss and working from home, male workers are embracing a more balanced work and home life and giving up the commute in exchange for the comfort of the home office. A larger focus on our individual carbon footprints also makes both employees and employers reconsider driving into the office every day. We calculated that by empowering over 250 SmartPAs to work remotely and flexibly, we save around 10,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every month.

Not only does this make the workplace a more efficient place cost-wise (fewer desks and technology requirements), it makes it a happier one. You will have read in our previous blog how important it is to promote the work/life balance, happiness and wellbeing of your team, as happy workers have been shown to be more productive and remain with the company longer. Investing in your team’s wellbeing will help you attract and retain top talent, an all-important factor in an increasingly competitive job market.

So there you have it, the modern workplace may look like it’s filled with active-wear clad millennials, sipping Starbucks and tapping away on laptops whilst stationed at the nearest treadmill-mounted desk, but it is actually an efficient, effective hub focussed around maximising productivity whilst maintaining and prioritising individual wellbeing.

*If your workplace doesn’t look like this and you’re looking for a change of scenery, get in touch – we’re always looking for new faces.

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