Should Executive Assistants go on Coffee Runs?

Among the most striking details of the corporate era depicted in the AMC series Mad Men, along with constant smoking and mid-day drinking, is the army of secretaries who populate Sterling Cooper, the 1960s ad agency featured in the show. The secretary of those days has gone the way of the carbon copy and been replaced by the executive assistant. Which brings me to the infamous coffee run.  Some assistants love it; it gives them a momentary respite from the chaos of the office.  Most assistants hate it.  They despise the idea of being demoted to caffeine transporter.  But, all assistants (the good ones, at least) understand that part of being in a support role is doing everything and (almost) anything necessary in order to make their managers’ day-to-day business functions easier.

Administrative Assistants’ jobs are not easy.  We no longer live in the age of “the secretary” where words per minute and the ability to phone, fax, and file, are the only real qualifications of the role. Assistants perform a wide variety of duties throughout the day, involving numerous skills in order to complete tasks that under other circumstances would be divvied out to various departments.

They hone their skills by becoming certified, mastering Microsoft Office, Google Suite, continuing their professional education, attending seminars, training through LinkedIn and reading blogs such as this one in order to stay ahead of trends and be the best at what they do. A good assistant saves you time and money, making you more efficient, and, in turn, the practices of your business more effective.

It is not impossible to imagine why coffee runs feel diminutive to an assistant.  After all, so much training, so many late nights working to get that last report finalised to meet the deadline, so many extra hours worked to ensure that you boss’s business affairs are in order before the weekend; the pre-dawn calls to rebook a flight, or make last minute changes to an itinerary.  An assistant’s role just feels so much bigger than coffee.

So, should assistants go on coffee runs? The simple answer: yes. The truth is, coffee runs are just as important as meticulously screening phone calls, submitting expense reports, drafting correspondence, or preparing a travel itinerary.  Take a moment to think about the details that go into an order: the particulars of an executive’s beverage, the specificities of the type of sweetener they prefer, the difference between the executive who needs 20oz of coffee to get through the day and the executive who can’t drink more than 8oz without jittering uncontrollably through the night; the half-caff-drinker, the tea-with-honey drinker, the two-sugar-in-the-raws-and-a-splenda (for no rational reason) drinker.  Yes, executive assistants should go on coffee runs.  It is not a job for the faint of heart.  Coffee runs are serious business and an error in communication, execution, or distribution of that task could seriously sour circumstances. An admin assistant is definitely not a person whose only duty is to get coffee for their boss – the list of tasks and duties that they’re usually assigned are very extensive.