End of the line for the traditional secretary


Technology has fundamentally altered the role of the secretary, consigning tasks such as taking dictation and answering the boss's telephone to the dustbin of history as executives deal with their own e-mail and answer their own mobile phones.

But a survey of 754 secretaries by recruitment company OfficeTeam has found that although three quarters of bosses write most of their own letters and two thirds answer calls on their mobiles, many secretaries still feel that they are overworked.

A third of secretaries now work longer hours than they did two years ago because they have been diverted to other tasks. They claimed typically to work an extra day a week in unpaid overtime, while a quarter claimed they did not have time to take a break during the day.

Secretaries said they had taken on extra responsibilities including finding new staff and other management tasks.

A fifth said they spent nearly half their day working for someone other than their boss and were forced to pick up the work of any colleagues made redundant.

More than one third of those questioned said there were fewer people to share the workload. The volume of work they faced was cited as the main cause of stress.

"The traditional picture of a secretary used to be as a 'gatekeeper' for her boss - no one could get in to see the boss, speak to him on the telephone or make an appointment with him without her knowing about it," Steve Carter, the managing director of OfficeTeam, said.

"That has all been swept away by new technology. They have less direct contact with their boss, but they have more general responsibility within their organisation."