New to Office Management? Operations Experts Share Advice

Kristen Felicetti
October 15, 2019

A role in office management means insight into every aspect of a company: from a high-level understanding of the cultural health of an organization, to remembering team members' birthdays, to memorizing the office emergency plan. As an office manager, you are expected to juggle a diverse list of responsibilities and competing priorities. And if you are new to office management, the volume and variety of the tasks expected of you can feel overwhelming.

We talked to office management pros who shared hard-won insights that will help you be more productive and save your company money. Everyone was new to their office management job once, so the ideas below will help set you up for success.

Know every inch of your office

As an office manager, the quality of the office is your responsibility. It is essential to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of your physical office space in order to ensure it stays in tip-top shape and enables your colleagues to do their best work. You want to be the first person to notice if there are too many dishes left in the sink or if a light bulb in the conference room blew out.

Kim Rohrer, VP of People Operations at Stride, recommends taking a few minutes every day to walk around the office to take stock of what’s going on. Too often office managers find themselves in one of two situations: stuck at their desks handling daily office minutia, or away from their workstations for an extended period of time in order to tackle a longer project. Taking a few minutes to walk around the office everyday is a great way to reconnect with your space and assess what improvements need to be made from a decorative, functional, or organizational standpoint.

Cultivate great communication

Excellent and frequent communication with everyone in the office is essential for office management. If there are changes in the physical office or to workplace policies, team members want to be notified well in advance, have context to understand why they are happening, and feel safe expressing their questions or concerns. In addition, you want to foster an environment of accessibility so your colleagues can have an open line of communication with you.

Regis Wakefield, Senior Employee Experience Manager at Greenhouse, says everyone at her company works to be open and available. People pop by her desk frequently to discuss office issues, but she also uses a database to streamline the process. If a bathroom light is out, or the refrigerator is malfunctioning, they can submit an employee experience request via a Zendesk or Employee Helpdesk account. This ensures that all the requests go to one place and Wakefield will be able to address them, even if they come in when she is working on another task.

Office management often requires translating ideas from the CEO to the rest of the company and vice-versa. Office managers may represent their executives in company meetings or off-site staff events. Rohrer at Stride stresses that one of the first things an office manager should do is establish strong communication with their manager, so they can build a relationship of trust from the beginning. Ultimately, your boss needs to be able to trust you to make decisions and further company goals without their direct supervision.

Find the tools and vendors that will make your job easier

All office managers have different tools and software they use to save time and keep organized. Often it’s a matter of preference, what service is available, or what software integrates best with what the rest of the company already uses. Some of the top software, services, and apps that office managers said make their jobs easier included Managed by Q Employee Helpdesk, Asana, TeuxDeux, Envoy, Slack, Social Table, and Google Suite.

Most office management roles require ordering and restocking supplies, so it’s important to choose efficient vendors. Adele Gower, Office Coordinator at When I Work, recommends automating as much as you can. Having deliveries ship on an automated schedule saves her time and allows her to spend her energy elsewhere. In San Francisco and New York, this is easy, as everything from bulk paper goods to fancy cookies can be delivered on demand. But this was a bigger challenge for Gower at When I Work’s first office in St. Paul, Minnesota. To set up a reliable supply chain for her office took multiple phone calls, and once she even chased down a truck she saw parked outside of her office to get a business card.

Building relationships with vendors is also an important aspect of office management. Wakefield at Greenhouse stresses the importance of growing a relationship of mutual respect with vendors. When you’ve earned that respect, it’s easier to ask them to go the extra mile when difficulties arise or you need a delivery fast.

Find a supportive buddy or an entire support network

If it's your first time in office management, the number of tasks you have to coordinate and oversee can seem daunting. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Connecting with a network of supportive office managers can be invaluable for discussing challenges and finding solutions to overcome your obstacles. Before her move to the Minneapolis area, Gower worked as an office manager at DataHero in San Francisco. When she needed guidance or an understanding ear, she had monthly lunches with office managers from other companies in the area.

When Kim Rohrer first started at the company Disqus, she was the only employee, besides the CEO, who was focused on the people and operations aspects of the company. So she connected with the office managers at GitHub and Heroku, and the three of them began messaging each other using a Google Group. Participants started adding their friends to the group until it snowballed to over 2,000 members.

Take on extra tasks to learn new skills

Once you have mastered the basics of your job, spread your wings and push yourself to go above and beyond. Many people fall into their first office manager position, but whether you want to expand your current role or eventually move into a different department, the best way to do that is to add to your skillset.

Gower at When I Work said that whenever she has free time, she will always expand her skill set by asking for more projects to tackle. She’ll check in with the accounting department, her boss, or any other department that might need her assistance. Because she has helped out and build strong relationships, Gowers colleagues returned the favor during a stressful office move and all pitched in to help.

Felsenstein at Bond Street agreed. He said, “As an office manager, you’re the central person that interacts with everyone, so you have an opportunity to talk to all these different departments. It’s your job to find what else piques your interest and get acclimated to all different areas of a business.”

Whether your interest is HR, event planning, business development, finance, or marketing, figure out where you would like to expand. Verbalizing short-term and long-term goals will help you assert yourself and excel in your office management role while you build your career.

Photography by Dominick Mastrangelo

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