Without a doubt, one of the most important roles in any organisation, the role of the Executive Assistant is a multi-faceted, multi-functional, and multi-tasked!

This week I spoke to Executive Assistant in eShopWorld Niamh Smithers. Niamh is taking working from home in her stride and was good enough to take some time to chat through her routine with us.

Niamh Smithers

From Niamh,

Before I get into about me I hope you and your families are safe and well. To the Executive Assistants who are supporting those on the frontline, thank you for what you are doing.

I’m an Executive Assistant 14 years now – wow, I had to count that one out twice to make sure I was right, seems too long! I’ve worked in a few different industries but it was with Ulster Bank that began my career as an Executive Assistant but I’ve also had experience in Insurance, Telecommunications, TV, and now in Technology.

I’m based in Dublin and lucky for me I’ve only a 10-minute commute to work (currently it’s a two-second walk down the hall!!) after so many years of travelling into the city centre, further afield to Belfast, London, and Edinburgh.

My role in eShopWorld is primarily to support the Chief Operating Officer but I work with probably another three to four executives all having different needs so the role is varied as well as ensuring our office of 300+ is working and functioning.

Some refer to me as the concierge of eShopWorld or a living Alexa as I’ll do what I can to help or direct you to who you need to speak. The role is busy, it’s demanding, it’s interesting and varied but that’s what I enjoy so much about it.

What is your schedule like now?

I get up at roughly the same time, (maybe a walk) and dress in my work clothes. Maybe not the heels, but psychologically I am in a more focused headspace when I do as much of my regular routine as possible. So when normality is restored I’d like to think not as much will have changed.

How are you staying physically active?

Well as we are only allowed one form of exercise a day outside, I’ll vary when I go for a walk so it might be first thing in the morning, lunchtime or late evening. The other option then is to do a work out at home. There is so much online that you can really pick and choose what you want to do.

What has mainly changed for you on your work day?

How I engage with the executives and my general engagement with my colleagues. Being physically present you’re able to read someone’s mood, eye contact so you can understand how they’re feeling but with the no ‘Water Cooler’ chats going on, it’s hard to get a gauge of how people are feeling or what’s going on in the business without having to be in a meeting. So it’s trying to find a balance of keeping engagement with people.

How do you separate your work space from your home space?

I live in an apartment and although I’ve a spare room, there is no desk so I had to get creative around my work space. I’ve a dining table that flips out to sit eight people so as you can see in the photo, I’ve split half for work and half for sitting. So my living space has become three spaces now.

  • Living Room
  • Dining Room
  • Home office
Niamh Smithers


Any recommendations for any of the following (in terms of apps/programmes/software that are free / good value / only if you have budget

  • For communicating – Skype, Slack, WhatsApp, Phone
  • For safely sharing docs – OneDrive but if sharing with external parties I would recommend password protecting documents or confidential documents internal. During these current times, scammers/hackers do take advantage.
  • For organising your day/your Exec’s day – My two weekly catch-ups with the COO have now moved to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 15 mins to keep the engagement as well as when needed with text messages or email. I still have a weekly catch-up with others. However, I’ll just plough ahead when needed e.g. I’ll just go in and manage the conflicts. That’s the role of an EA to manage the schedule so the Executives don’t need to and being a step ahead. Taking the initiative.
  • To make sure my day is organised I schedule reminders/block my schedule in the morning for a walk/breakfast, lunch so I remember to look up from my desk and then a reminder to finish work by 6 pm -otherwise I won’t. During these times you can very easily get caught up when at home and forget to look at the clock as you’re not running from one meeting to another or looking to get home by a certain time.
  • For teams – Zoom or Skype with the video’s on, Slack channels
  • For tasks/to-do lists (personal and/or professionals) – I have to say I’m old school on this. I’ve a to-do list which is broken into Top 3 priorities today, to do and then break out of am/pm and then a To-Do book for the longer-term To do’s.
  • I am finding though my new whiteboard desk very handy for jotting down things as they come into my head or for a constant reminder. There was one I used with a previous executive Remember the Milk (the pro version you can share to-do lists with others and see when things are done or updated with notes)
  • For video conferencing – Zoom currently as Skype is feeling the effects of the demand on its platform. With video but remember your Video etiquette 🙂
  • For engagement with others – Having more regular and shorter catch-ups with your executives. Make a list of people in work to call or message at the start of the week to just check in to see how they are.
  • For getting involved – Look at areas where your strengths are which could be communications, activities to get people together, pulling information together for other areas. Even if it’s not your area, put a hand up and say you’ll help. This is a time where your skillset as an EA is adaptable. Just send an email saying I’m here to help they may not need it now but they will remember when they do.
  • For taking the opportunity – although it’s a time that is of uncertainty and keeping ourselves and family safe. Being there for each other as this is time for opportunities to reach out to friends you haven’t seen or spoken too.

Do the things you’ve been putting off in work as you haven’t had the time like:

  1. Procedure manuals
  2. Desktop filing or email organising
  3. Getting even more super organised
  4. Creating ‘The what you need to know’ for when you take leave
  5. Taking time out to spend some time on your PDP, reading an article, watching a webinar.
  6. Getting ready for review if you haven’t had it.
  7. Reviewing/adjusting your goals.
  8. Share articles with your executives or webinars or colleagues in general.
  9. Why not look at something that is done in the company that you think could do with some improvement or updating
  10. Ask to sit in on meetings you wouldn’t normally have time to do and learn about a new department or project that is being worked on.

Recommended webinar?

I’ve been on a few internal work webinars that have been arranged via our Learning and Development department which have been beneficial during the current times.

I attended the free conference being hosted by EPAA on Thursday 2nd of April and Friday 3rd of April. They had a lot of great sessions that I found useful and the live recordings can be found by clicking here: https://lnkd.in/dujKBEN

Any positive mindset things to do?

Get out for a walk, call a friend, only follow positive people on Instagram/Twitter, share the good and uplifting stories. There was a tweet around four days ago to say that 925 people in Italy were on the mend than the sad news of those passing. You want to feel good stories. Keep positive thoughts alive than letting them be dulled by the negative people and their thoughts.

Anything else that you’re finding really helpful/cannot live without?

My Alexa keeps me company daily from playing the radio or we may play a quiz or two although I wouldn’t say I’m any good at them but we all love someone who gives’ it a lash (as per quote from our very own President Michael D Higgins). Whatsapp for family engagements, as well as Zoom for catching up with so many friends and family in one go. It lifts everyone’s spirits.

And finally… what has been a great watch on Netflix and why ? 🙂

Oh I kinda just watch what’s in the top 10 or whatever I have put on My List but haven’t got to. The last four movies I watched  A Man on a Ledge, A Fall from Grace, Salt and Broken Edge (with 20mins to the end I only realised that I’d seen it before!)

I had been catching up on a series of programmes, I hadn’t been watching on my TV. So for the moment I think I can safely say I won’t be running out of things to watch!

Oh I kinda just watch what’s in the top 10 or whatever I have put on My List but haven’t got to. The last four movies I watched  A Man on a Ledge, A Fall from Grace, Salt and Broken Edge (with 20mins to the end I only realised that I’d seen it before!)

I had been catching up on a series of programmes, I hadn’t been watching on my TV. So for the moment I think I can safely say I won’t be running out of things to watch!

Note from the editor: Over the coming weeks, we’ll be interviewing a number or Ireland’s EAs, PAs and Officer Managers. If you would like to share your experiences with your peers then please get in touch. Email Aisling on aisling@zoomin.ie.