How to be an Office Manager when you no longer have an office
The current situation much of the world finds itself in is surreal to say the least: public spaces are closed, work from home (wfh) has suddenly become the norm, and many of us find ourselves scrabbling to maintain a semblance of normality in our day-to-day. With that in mind, how do we ensure the role of Office Manager (OM) continues to have the positive impact we have shown it to be capable of in a physical environment?
Office management is a role that is widely misunderstood. Yes, we look after stationary and make sure the office is (at least on the surface) beautifully organised, and yes we are the go-to when the printer suddenly decides to stop working or the dishwasher leaks soapy water everywhere, but OMs are so much more than that. In many senses we are the beating heart of the company, frequently going above and beyond our role, solving problems as they arise and maintaining team morale.
Each company is different and the culture will dictate much of what is expected from the OM, however there are a few easy wins that you can implement now to ensure the teams you ordinarily support continue to benefit, even from home. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but will hopefully give you some ideas...
- Continue to be the go-to person, unflappable and positive in the face of the unexpected. Though arguably easier said than done, the team will no doubt be craving a little normalcy and as OM you're uniquely placed to provide that.
- Have an open door policy on Slack so people aren't worried about reaching out... but don't be afraid to use do not disturb and the away function so that you can still get your work done.
- Check in with the team, especially those who have never really worked from home before - have they got everything they need to effectively do their job? Is there a budget you could re-purpose to send out notebooks, pens and monitors?
- Encourage the use of the #random channel on Slack, asking the team to share any new skills, recipes or photos. You could even collate and share as a weekly newsletter so that no one misses out.
- Could you offer access to online courses? Coursera and Udemy offer a wide variety of options, whilst Codecademy breaks down learning to code into easily understandable chunks.
- Make the most of collaboration tools and ensure everyone has an account. Zoom, Skype and Hangouts are powerful tools to ensure valuable face-time isn't lost, whereas Pragli allows you to keep an open line at all times.
- Lunchtime Zooms. One of the things I loved most about my previous role was that we all had lunch together, fostering camaraderie as everyone eye'd up everyone else's lunch. Encouraging people to eat together - even through a screen - ensures that hard-earned team spirit isn't lost.
- Celebrate everything! Arranging a cake delivery might be a little tricky, but you could send a virtual card, or look to Bloom & Wild for letterbox flowers and Doughnut Time for DIY doughnut kits.
- Be kind to yourself. By nature, OMs tend to be tenacious but this situation will be difficult for even the most diehard amongst us. Whilst looking after the team is no doubt important, make sure to check in on how you're doing and remember it's okay to feel a little lost if your usual manic days are replaced with something slower.
No one knows what our working life will look like in the next month, quarter, year, and there is little we can do to control that. However, by continuing to be present for the teams we support, we can ensure when we do go back to "normal" the teams and cultures we have worked so hard to support and build have withstood the storm.