There’s no doubt that the global COVID crisis has impacted all of us heavily, but particularly for EAs, there has been an enormous shift in the direction work has taken. The amount of traditional administrative tasks has dramatically decreased, what with Executives now working from home, and the increased time leading to more self-sufficiency across the board. Especially for EAs and PAs to travelling execs, there has been a complete pivot in job responsibilities. And yet, that has not eliminated the need for EAs; their presence is just as important as ever, but the role has certainly been shaping up to look a little different coming into 2021. Project management, operations, and team comms are all plausible areas for EAs to be focusing their efforts towards, as the pressure to show how they add value to their organisations may increase. The Covid crisis has essentially been a wake up call for organisations to critically assess and re-evaluate their business needs while operating from a place of instability and uncertainty, and the role of the EA has been no exception to that.
The new purpose of an EA is all about providing wider business support rather than catering solely to an individual and their role in the organisation. Beneath tasks like scheduling appointments and booking reservations, EAs at heart are really business managers responsible for operations management, project management, and other collaborative efforts within the company. These managerial traits are essential in an EA’s toolbox in our current day and age, and must be able to be exercised outside of their relationship with the Executive they immediately assist. Who knows? Some may end up as Business Support Managers, a title many EAs aspire to (and eventually do) achieve.
The underpinning themes here are resilience and agility, qualities that when honed well, become a strong foundation for anyone in the EA line of work. Building resilience through empathy and being unafraid to reach out for support has become a huge asset, particularly in the era of a global pandemic; with routines thrown out of whack and many of our usual methods of work rendered impossible, our procedures and systems have had to readjust massively and quickly. Asking for help, opinions, thoughts and assistance has certainly had its place in the last 12 months of reworking office operations. A discerning eye as far as misinformation and best ethical practices has also become a significant asset for EAs; in an era where truths and falsities are often interchanged, the EA has an opportunity here to rise up as a pillar of trust by understanding their contextual landscape clearly, and separating the facts from the fiction.
Reconfiguring the way we work from home during Covid has by no means been a smooth ride; there have no doubt been gaps in our strategies, or bumps in the road that we either did not - or often could not, much like the virus itself - anticipate. This is where the importance of agility comes in. Built over time, our ability to adapt, be flexible and respond quickly and dynamically to changing situations has certainly been tested during this crisis.
With so much of EA work revolving around face to face communications, and being able to catch Executives and other colleagues on the fly in the office, the way we communicate has had to change drastically. That’s why it’s been so impressive to see EAs in our community continue to persevere and excel in their roles, adapting to new ways of working and ensuring they are able to follow through with their responsibilities despite the uncertainty. They have achieved this thanks to how fine-tuned they are to their executives, leading them to be able to confidently anticipate what will be required of them next. This confidence allows EAs to remain prepared for any crisis should one arise, and allows the executive to rest assured that they don’t need to be proactively chasing up loose ends.
At the heart of it all, it’s this relationship between EA and Exec that truly decides the success of the EA. When the Exec has made time to truly ensure their EA is on the same page as them, and the EA is willing to come to the table as well, even Covid can’t erase the powerful positive impact an EA can have on the whole company.