Tide of change in typing pool

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Secretaries are now more likely to take charge of the accounts and organise conferences than sit around filing their nails and typing, as a workplace revolution hands them ever-increasing levels of responsibility.

In a survey of 468 organisations, secretaries were found to have taken on an impressive range of duties, including accounting, budgetary control, arranging seminars and events, rewriting and presenting reports and statistics, booking travel and accommodation, and managing buildings.

In addition, many have responsibility for company car fleets, insurance, health and safety, payroll, purchasing, customer complaints, training, recruitment and administering cleaning and catering contracts.

The Reed employment agency, which conducted the research, comments that pay does not seem to have kept pace with the increased workload, salary increases having simply mirrored inflation. Indeed, some secretaries believe jobs are frequently advertised as secretarial because, if they were described as administrative or managerial, they would commmand higher salaries. Only 7 per cent of secretaries have been promoted to non-secretarial jobs over the last four years.

Sixty-eight per cent of employers say managers are doing more of their own typing than four years ago. Others cite e-mail as a form of technology which has reduced the need for secretaries to type and circulate internal messages.

In addition, 48 per cent of organisations feel that secretaries have become more of a "communications hub"; co-ordinating managers who work outside the office. Fifty-six per cent feel secretaries are taking more decisions on their own, and are "becoming administrators".