As technology has transformed the workplace and organizations have downsized, companies have sharply reduced the ranks of administrative assistants. But many firms have gone too far. In their zeal for cutting administrative expenses, numerous organizations now count on highly paid middle and upper managers to arrange their own travel, file expense reports, and schedule meetings. Some companies may see a type of egalitarianism in this assistant-less structure-believing that when workers see the boss loading paper into the copy machine, it creates a we're all in this together spirit. But as a management practice, that approach rarely makes economic sense. Generally speaking, work should be delegated to the lowest-cost employee who can do it well. Yet while companies seem to have embraced that logic by outsourcing work to vendors or to operations abroad, they ignore it back at headquarters. In this article, Duncan, a longtime recruiter of C-suite executive assistants, argues that a good assistant is a crucial productivity booster for a busy executive-one that offers a solid ROI if he or she is deployed correctly.
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