How Should an Administrative Assistant Prepare Their Day? – Ask an Admin


Welcome to Ask an Admin! This is where any administrative assistant or executive assistant can submit any question they have and your peers can weigh in on the conversation with their advice. There is more than one way to approach a situation or problem so we would love to hear your input!

This week Karen asks:

I would like to ask a question to other admins about their ways of preparing for their days out of the office. We are trying to formulate a policy about backing others up when they are out of the office for PTO. We are finding that some of our admins are leaving the team they work for to fend for themselves during these times or they are depending on another admin to cover them when the admin is also covering 5 other people that day. And that day is usually a Friday or a day around a holiday when everyone wants to leave early or take PTO. It is too much for that admin to handle and is unprofessional to do that to someone. We have a strict QA/QC program here and everything going out the door must go through the quality check, so their team has no choice but to go to the admin who is in the office.

We would like to develop a policy that covers our eleven offices to keep things as consistent across the company as possible.

Any advice or ideas for a policy would be welcomed.

Basically, Karen is asking, how should an administrative assistant prepare their day? This is a good question. From the military to the business world there are always fail safes. So, let’s hear it administrative and executive assistants, what are your thoughts on this?


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9 thoughts on “How Should an Administrative Assistant Prepare Their Day? – Ask an Admin”

  1. Thank you everyone!!

    These are great ideas and I am going to talk to my manager about them to see which ones we can implement.

    Thanks so much for taking your time to help!

  2. I have an Admin binder that I created with 2 versions of ‘reception/admin’ coverage. 1 version is very basic which is meant for short-term coverage of 1 or 2 days. This outlines just the basic needs which need to be taken care of when I’m away for just a day or 2. The other binder is meant for longer term – 2 week vacations – in this binder it details what to do for just about every instance from my daily routine up to and including how to work with the various personalities of some of the senior staff/managers. As these binders are meant for the temporary staff who come in to cover there is no private company information. I have a separate laptop computer with the temps passwords and access to only the data they may need. It works perfect and I’ve had no issues. By the way – my Admin binder is entitled ‘Who’s minding the kids’.

  3. Create an “admin binder” with all the info for “how to do this job”. I’ve created one for my sub that breaks it down into a “Day at a Glance”, then into daily, weekly, monthly tasks, and then a section with very specific details (so if I died, someone else could take over my job without me being there to train them–no death plans anytime soon, but hey–you never know!).

    I also have a small calendar on my desk, sort of a hybrid bullet journal, where I track my next projects, tasks, steps for a bigger project, reminders to myself. Anything that doesn’t get done this week, I migrate to next week’s calendar. I review everything coming Next Week–are there any prep-steps to do THIS week? and then add them to this week’s list of tasks.

    I also have an office “tickler file” with a folder for each month, and another set of folders labeled 1-31 (one for every day of a month). In December (let’s say) when someone mentions an upcoming conference in April, I jot a note with details into the April folder. At the tail end of March, I go through the April folder and pull out items that need to go into the daily folders throughout April. (So, it’s basically a revolving set of folders.) Then when I meet with my Exec, I pull from the daily folders anything for that day or the next few upcoming days that we/he/I need to be working on to be ready for that April conference (or whatever).

    Anything in the Tickler that needs to be done, gets jotted in my “bullet journal” list of tasks.

  4. At a previous company I supported two executives. I was partnered with another EA (who sat next to me) and we provided coverage for each other when one of us was out or during lunch. Our executives always had support and knew exactly who to go to when they needed help. All the senior executives were set up like this, and it worked well.

  5. Laura Hall-Daniels

    Have a rotating schedule for vacation around the holidays. For example, two people must work Christmas eve and the next year it rotates to someone else. For the Friday problem, asking for the time off ahead of time and making sure there is adequate coverage (two people working) should be mandatory. Even if they report to different leaders who give them permission to take the day off, they have to ensure there are 2 people working that day or they don’t get to take that day off or leave early. A shared on-line calendar of scheduled vacation days would be helpful, listing who is off and who is covering for them. Can people from the 11 offices cover other locations if needed, on a voluntary basis?

  6. Hi Karen,

    It has been my experience that when multiple admins work in an office together and support multiple leaders there is a fend-for-yourself mind-set that settles in with the group. I’m not sure why, but for this reason, our admin suite partners admins together. So, if Admin Jane is out of the office, Admin Joe is assigned to handle her work. However, Jane is required to complete all unfinished business before she goes, only leaving Joe with duties that require minimal oversight and are mostly FYI. There is an org chart for this and the leaders know who their back-up admin is. This org chart is also sent throughout the company, so all management knows who partners with who and can direct their inquires accordingly. These partnered admins cover each other during lunches and offsites as well, so they are always in tune with what each others leaders want and need.

    Admins are also required to set-up a detailed out-of-office message in Outlook. Explaining exactly who someone can contact depending on their need, along with contact information for those people. The admins are required to send a detailed email to their leaders with this same information, as well as talk with them in person.

    For holidays, the admin group gets together at the beginning of the year and negotiates who will be off and who will have to work for each holiday. If you worked Christmas week last year, you get Christmas week off this year, kind of thing. But they negotiate and agree on it up front, so there are no issues when the holidays come.

    Hope this helps!

  7. At a previous employer we had dedicated back ups for the EA team. That way, in the event that someone was out of the office unexpectedly or planned a vacation, the coverage was seamless. Each would have the same permissions and access to calendars, expenses etc to avoid unnecessary drama with the executives. Obviously, that meant that at times one person would have 8 – 10 people they were supporting, depending on the situation, they might need complete support for that time. If it was one day, most would be ok unless something urgent would come up (move a meeting, book travel) and if it was vacation then the back ups would ensure that everything was covered off before they left the office.

  8. Karen:
    What a great team question! When I worked for a telecommunications company, we had mini-teams of 3 throughout our larger team of 20 plus. Each team of 3 was held accountable for not only their own work, but for the work of whoever was out sick or on vacation. When one team member was “out”, the other 2 would meet and decide how the tasks would be divided (by task, or by day, etc. depending on how long the other member was out). To hold us accountable, we had summary sheets to fill out and turn into our supervisor. If one of the tasks wasn’t completed, everyone would know who the culprit was. In my group, one of the team members didn’t pull their weight and the other 2 went directly to the supervisor and asked for a reassignment of the less than helpful member. This technique worked well for us as long as the supervisor’s were willing to counsel those who weren’t pulling their weight.
    Hope this helps. I can’t wait to hear other ideas!

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