This annual observance has its roots in Administrative Professionals Week, which was first held in 1952. It was born in part due to World War II, which led to “an increased need for skilled administrative personnel” in the United States.
A National Secretaries Association became the Professional Secretaries International in 1981 and was renamed the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in 1998 to include not just secretaries but others who perform critical administrative tasks.
Today there are more than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants working in the United States, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
Common ways to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day and honor such workers include sending them flowers, cards, gift certificates, candy, and gift baskets, or treating them to lunch, per Holiday Insights.
The non-scientific poll of social media followers on Twitter and Facebook asked administrative professionals to describe their official and unofficial duties in the office. Respondents said their responsibilities could range from human resources director, accountant, concierge and therapist to downright miracle worker.
For employees, administrative professionals serve a special role in the office. Nearly 42 percent said their administrative assistant knows their day better than their spouse. They also are able to produce the ever elusive scissor or tape dispenser, as 43 percent of employees said they often borrow office supplies.
Despite office popularity, employees aren’t eager to turn back the clock to the age of ‘secretaries,’ as 31.4 percent said they’d prefer a Pam Halpert-type of The Office over Mimi Bobeck of The Drew Carey Show (28.9 percent) and Joan Holloway of Mad Men (19.6 percent).
While it is a holiday, it’s unsure if employees will sing praise of their administrative assistants or not. Some 62 percent of administrative staff said they aren’t likely to receive a gift marking the day, but nearly 68 percent of non-administrative employees said they plan on handing out gifts, with the majority relying on gift cards and flowers to mark the occasion.