Executive assistance | Office manager or executive assistance?

Doubting between an Office Manager and an Executive Assistant? Here are the key differences

Executive Assistant and Office Manager working together on a latop

Organizing team outings, booking trips and flights, scheduling meetings and onboarding new team members.

What do all these tasks have in common? They’re areas of expertise of executive assistants and office managers.

Based on your and your company’s specific needs, an EA can be more suitable than an office manager, and vice versa. So, how to choose? And what’s the ROI of hiring an executive assistant or an OM?

Let’s go through what each role is really about and the differences between an office manager and an executive assistant. In this way you’ll know exactly who you need to hire to match your company needs!

Office managers and executive assistants have many tasks & responsibilities in common

If you’ve never worked with either of these two roles, it’s normal to be confused over who does what. Indeed, office managers and executive assistants might share similar backgrounds and skill sets and have similar expertise within a company.

Like EAs, office managers are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the organization, and both are tasked with making decisions that impact the work environment and culture of the company.

For example, both roles will be responsible for:

  • Helping their executives or managers with scheduling meetings, activities, events
  • Booking travel arrangements, and managing company-wide projects
  • Managing budgets and keeping accurate records of expenses. So executives can see how well current projects are going or if there needs to be any changes in strategy moving forward.

While it’s true that these responsibilities overlap between office manager and executive assistant roles (and many other similar positions in the administrative industry), there are some key differences between these two jobs. Let’s dive into it.

What does an Office Manager actually do?

Office Managers are involved in business supportive tasks. That means, they’re there to support your company as a whole. Of course, specific tasks and duties can differ from company to company: in some cases an Office Manager might have to manage the agenda of the company’s executive as well.

Their tasks can include:

  • Overseeing human resources, accounting, marketing, procurement and purchasing of supplies and equipment
  • Developing strategy for improving internal processes
  • Help with onboarding new employees
  • Training existing and new staff (particularly in areas like company tech stack)
  • Managing budgets
  • Coordinating with vendors/consultants
  • Ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations (such as environmental laws)
  • Creating procedure manuals for new hires to follow
  • Organizing meetings/events that bring staff together so they can share information about what’s happening across the board— you get the idea!

For example, our Headroom global office manager is there to ensure the team spirit and company culture is nurtured at every touch point – throughout the full employee life cycle.

She takes care of everything home office-related too: supplies, deliveries and logistics. But also:

  • Internal comms and employee engagement
  • Bonuses and gifts
  • Bookings and travel arrangements for the team

If you’re looking for someone who can help streamline your company’s processes while simultaneously being a great resource for everyone else in the office (including yourself), then this position is worth considering.

And what about an Executive Assistant?

In contrast, an EA’s main focus is supporting top executives within a company: Chief Executive Officer, C-suites, directors. Great business people need great, qualified executive assistants who can also act as sparring partners.

An EA typically takes over a variety of tasks:

  • Manage the executive’s complex inbox and agenda (scheduling appointments based on individual preferences)
  • Book private and business travels including accommodation – making sure everything goes smoothly before departure date arrives!
  • Organize and follow meetings on behalf of the executive and take actionable notes and reports
  • Think along with the entrepreneur about how they can achieve their goals and unlock possibilities for their company

In addition, an EA can also support you on a personal level. They can take care of personal tasks and workload so everything will be balanced and streamlined. This way you can focus more on new business ideas, family and social activities and a better work-life balance.
You just need to learn how to delegate effectively!

Working for headroom means growing with and learning from many different members and ea colleagues. i find it very educational and empowering.
Headroom EA Anique talks about the key role assistants play in entrepreneurs’ success.

An executive assistant is responsible for managing their executive’s schedule and making sure no opportunity falls through the cracks.

We’re talking scheduling meetings, handling travel arrangements, keeping track of appointments, and more. Executive assistants also help with day-to-day operations like:

  • Answering phones and sending emails
  • Arranging for lunch or dinner reservations for the executive and others
  • Filing documents and invoicing
  • Helping with research projects

Ultimately, an executive assistant’s primary goal is to keep things running smoothly so that their executive can focus on their priorities.

So what’s the difference between Office Managers and Executive Assistants?

Now that we have introduced and defined the two roles, let’s dig into the main differences between the two.

Office Manager

  • Supports the company and team as a whole
  • Good IT management
  • Helps with onboarding of remote employees
  • Provides a well-stocked lunch table
  • Organizes cozy Friday afternoon drinks
  • Influences internal communication and processes
  • Is an important link between remote employees

Executive Assistant

  • Provides personal support to the entrepreneur
  • Inbox management
  • Agenda management
  • Books business & private travel
  • Searches for restaurants & makes reservations
  • Supports executives on a personal level
  • Improves your work-life balance
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In conclusion, an office manager is responsible for the team feeling, employee engagement, company admin and the office itself. They can also work closely with HR on payroll and benefits.

An executive assistant usually is specifically focused on executives’ needs. While they will help with some of the company-wide administrative tasks mentioned above (especially those related to the executive), their main job is to support the executive in all aspects of their life and be a gatekeeper of their calendar and valuable time.

When should you hire an executive assistant or office manager?

With this in mind, it’s important your understand how each role will help your company work more effectively.

For example:

You’re looking for someone to help during a major reorganization effort in your company. It would make sense to look for someone who has experience managing teams and general logistics (office manager) over someone with an admin background (executive assistant).

On the other hand, your company might be growing fast and you need someone to support the executives at your company and free them from admin tasks – say, overseeing their travel arrangements or preparing quarterly reports -. Then you should hire someone with strong administrative and organizational skills: an executive assistant.

You might also consider hiring a Chief of Staff, but be aware that there’s also a difference between Office Manager, assistants and CoS.

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How can you know if you need an Executive Assistant?

  • You feel you don’t have enough time to do everything you should to scale your business and execute.
  • You spend more time on admin and calendar management than strategy and business development.
  • Your work life balance is close to non-existent.
  • You’re missing out on social and family life and your calendar is haunting you.

Here are 5 more signs that you need an assistant. But if you’re asking yourself whether you need an EA, you already know the answer.

Read more on how a Headroom executive assistant can take your company and vision to the next level.

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