As we enter into the last months of the year, it’s a relief to see that workplaces are at long last putting restrictions behind them and returning to the office.
Now that we are all returning to the workforce, it’s a good time to consider a potential new working model. Many CEOs and C-suite executives are asking themselves, ‘Do we return to the office full-time or adopt a hybrid model?’
While I can see the considerable benefits for a great majority of employees, I believe for business partner executive assistants, it’s not advantageous. So today, I’m outlining the reasons why I believe the majority of senior executive assistants should maintain a full-time presence in the office. The role of an executive assistant is, by nature, collaborative, high-skill and high value, which doesn’t translate well to working from home.
To be visible as a part of the senior leadership team
While not all executive assistants are business partners or working as a chief of staff, all are making a valuable contribution to the senior leadership team. It makes sense for the executive assistant to the CEO or other c-suite executives to be suitably visible to the employees and teams they work with. Visibility and accessibility is a core part of the leadership function, which is difficult to replicate on a virtual level. If the executive is not as visible due to other commitments, stakeholders can still get a sense of access and approachability because the executive assistant is still reliably present in the workplace.
To be a conduit for staff and leader communication
Building in-person relationships on behalf of the executive is a vital element of the executive assistant position. Having a physical presence in the office means the ability to monitor culture, mood and sentiment — which would easily be missed when working virtually. When in person, staff are more likely to have a quick chat over an issue in person, which they may be reluctant to formalise with a phone call or official meeting. These kinds of ad-hoc engagements can be an excellent way for the EA to act as a gateway between staff and the executive.
To build relationships in person
There’s something about face-to-face connection that Zoom meetings can’t replicate. In particular, welcoming and onboarding new employees is difficult in a hybrid or remote working model. Regardless of whether staff are new or well-established, spending time with colleagues is critical for workplace happiness and strengthening the team dynamic. The high-performing EA should take an active interest in fostering this sense of connection and community within the broader team. It’s not impossible to achieve virtually, but it’s far easier in person. Plenty of information sharing happens through short conversations with people during a normal workday. Even though some of this is seemingly inconsequential conversation, it makes a broader contribution to culture that is deeply important. All those missed opportunities for water cooler chats, a quick cuppa or a mini-brainstorm tend to be missed when working from home.
To better focus on the demands of the position
Quite simply, there are better resources in the office. After all, it’s a space created for maximum productivity and efficiency, with meeting rooms, desks and technology equipped to meet the team’s everyday working needs. Ergonomic desks, comfortable chairs and quality lighting make it a physically safer space to work when compared to the home office. So while there may be time wasted in the commute to get to the office, once you’re there the distractions are minimal. The buzz of the office productivity seems to make everyone more inclined to get on with the job. Whereas at home, it’s easier to sit on the couch with a cuppa because no one’s watching.
To act as a representative of their executive
Most c-suite leaders prefer to be visible in the office where possible, for the same reasons outlined above. But, from time to time they may need to work from home to knuckle down and get things done. Or they may be out of the office on meetings or travelling on business. When this occurs, having the executive assistant in the office ensures there remains a touchpoint for news, information and reporting to flow through. When necessary, EA can attend meetings on behalf of their executive. A high performing executive assistant can confidently attend meetings on behalf of their executive and provide input and advice on behalf of their leader. This allows the executive the time and freedom to concentrate on the deep work, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing the office function will continue to operate efficiently under the watchful guidance of the executive assistant.
The pros and cons of a hybrid model
For many employees, it makes sense to combine the benefits of both styles of working with a hybrid model, perhaps a few days in the office and a few working from home. But for the high-level executive assistant, it has its drawbacks. Perhaps I’m conservative, but I feel that the executive assistant to senior company leaders needs to be visible and accessible, so being physically in the office as much as possible makes good business sense.
But on a practical level, working from home does have its advantages, so the hybrid model does allow for saving time on commuting and fewer interruptions. But to me, the advantages stop there. You just can’t beat that in-person connection for creativity, team morale and stronger social bonds.
Looking to recruit an executive assistant for a c-suite executive?
Altitude EA are specialists in high-performing executive assistants. We’d love to help you fill this crucially important role. We have a unique understanding of the evolving role of the executive assistant and a strong network of contacts with EAs for some of Australia’s leading employers. Call Anastasia today on 0421 16 55 96 to see how we can support you.