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When you are a member of the office staff reporting to management, you often fail to appreciate the reasons behind the manager's actions or reactions. It is only when you become that manager that it all suddenly becomes crystal clear.
For example, as a member of staff do you fail to see why arriving ten minutes late is a big deal- well let me tell you:- the office manager knows all the work that has to be completed that day, and who is going to be doing it. In that ten minutes that you are a no-show- all the plans have to be juggled and re-prioritised. The office manager's brain has to go into overdrive- and then you walk in as if nothing has happened. The manager has mixed feelings- delight that you have turned up- added to annoyance that all that stress has proved worthless and if you don't seem to care-aaah!!
If you cannot see what your office manager does, then he/she is probably doing a good job.
If you always get paid your overtime promptly, if there is always sufficient stationery. If they can always answer your queries and give you a prompt response if you ask to book leave. If you have training schedules and appraisals about your work, as well as a feeling that they are aware of your life outside work and care about you.
A good office manager should always be fair and whilst you can be sure you will be told if you are doing something wrong, you can be equally confident that you will be praised for a job well done.
You should feel part of their team and if the powers that be are critical of you, the office manager should always take the heat- it is their job after all to ensure the office is running smoothly.
The office manager should know how to do all of your jobs and whilst they may not be able to step in and do them all as well as you- they should appreciate what is involved.
Now on the next point I know managers have differing opinions- when I was an office manager, if there was urgent work to done, or work to be covered whilst someone was on leave- unless there were extenuating circumstances e.g. a special assignment I had been tasked with, I would always go and help. I didn't care how menial or boring the job was- I just dived in to help get it done. Now I have heard from other managers that
helping is a no-no, - that no good manager would ever "roll up their sleeves" and become one of the "workforce". Well if that is true, I was never a good manager, because I could never sit by and consider work to be a spectator sport.
Like any job, if you enjoy it and can do it well, then you can actually find yourself reasonably happy at the necessity of going into work.......
Except on Mondays, no never on Mondays..............
An Office Manager can sometimes be seen as the most important person in a company. You may not agree with that statement but you can't disagree that a good Office Manager will help to run a business more smoothly.
To summarise an Office Manager's role one could say that their main function is to supervise or manage the administrative functions to make an office run more efficiently.
WHAT DOES ONE DO?
There is no real job description set in stone for this role as duties vary greatly depending on size of company and industry sector you're working in.
A typical Office Manager will have some key functions which can include most of the following areas of responsibility:
* Ordering and monitoring stationery
* Liaising with landlords
* Looking after incoming and outgoing post (not specifically dealing with it as this would be generally dealt with by reception but overall responsibility for it)
* Keeping track of staff whereabouts (again this could be dealt with by a PA or department secretary should those posts exist)
* Premises related issues, such as monitoring cleaning services, small repairs around the office, keeping tea and coffee in stock
* Looking after the office petty cash and keeping accurate records and receipts for expenditure
* There might be team leader responsibilities too, such as line management responsibility for reception, admin or secretarial staff.
The above is not an exhaustive list - I will come back to more duties associated with the role a bit later.
WHAT SKILLS/ATTRIBUTES DO YOU NEED?
To be a good Office Manager there are certain key skills you need to have which include:
* You must be a good communicator - both verbally and in writing, you will have to deal with all levels of people inside and outside of the company and as such, you will need to be patient, flexible, assertive when necessary, approachable and diplomatic as and when required and dependant on who you're dealing with.
* You must be organised and be able to multi-task - organisation skills are absolutely imperative as you will be expected to keep accurate records of say, conversations with the landlord promising to fix the broken pipe outside your bosses window, or details of hours the cleaner works, not let toner cartridges run out so that you have no printing facilities in the office.
* Common sense is an invaluable attribute for an Office Manager, you need to be able to think on your feet and not disturb the managing director with every phone call that comes in asking to speak to the MD urgently as they have a burning issue they need to discuss - often enough they're usually just recruitment agencies or sales people trying to bypass the annoying Office Manager/Receptionist/PA/Secretary, etc. Using common sense is knowing which calls really are urgent and are worth facing the MD's wrath by interrupting him or her in a Board Meeting! You may often have to deal with people ringing up pretending to be a close personal friend of your director(s), if this was the case, surely they would have their mobile number right? On the other hand, you need to gauge who you're speaking with in case it's genuinely a senior member of a company that your boss is trying to negotiate a deal with, so again using common sense is essential.
* Honesty and reliability - often the Office Manager would be someone who lives locally and would therefore be a key holder for the premises - someone who can be called upon should there be an emergency at the office, such as the alarm going off by accident or windows being left open or even if there's a break-in. Honesty is important in any role but especially where you would be looking after petty cash for the office.
* Discretion - you may get to hear things in senior meetings which are confidential and should not under any circumstances be leaked to other people in the business. This could be more than your job is worth if you're found to be leaking information to colleagues that you heared in confidence.
There are, of course, other skills which are necessary for the role aside from the ones listed above but those are the key skills required.
HOW DO YOU GET TO BE ONE?
There are various means of getting to be an Office Manager including starting off as an Administrator, Secretary, Copy Typist, PA, Office Junior or Receptionist. As your skills and experience increase you can develop the necessary skills to become an Office Manager, or you may have studied Business Admin or Business Management at degree, Diploma or NVQ levels.
Although qualifications may be required for the role, I doubt you'd be able to walk into an Office Manager role with good qualifications but no commercial work experience though as many of the people and organisational skills required for this role come from working life experiences as opposed to theoretical knowledge. You need to have fairly good PC literacy skills and a high level of proficiency in packages such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and email applications is a must for the role.
WHAT DOES IT PAY?
Along with the duties for an Office Manager role salaries can also vary. If you're in London you can expect to earn from about £20,000 to £40,000 as an Office Manager in the current climate; some companies in The City pay even more than that. Outside of London the salaries can vary a great deal starting as low as £16,000 and going up to around £27,000. Again this is not set in stone, you can earn more or less depending on your skills level and the company itself.
Some Office Manager salaries have bonuses attached to them, which might be paid out dependant on the company's overall annual profits or depending whether or not you meet targets set by management. These targets could be based around various aspects of the role such as sourcing cheaper and/or more reliable stationery suppliers or saving the company money by finding a cheaper cleaning firm. Bonuses can be paid as a percentage of your annual salary once a year, maybe in December's salary or on a quarterly basis on achievement of set targets.
GOING BACK TO WHAT ELSE ONE DOES
I said I'd discuss more duties an Office Manager might have, so here we go...
In the various Office Manager roles I've worked in there's always been an element of HR (Human Resources) attached to the roles. This is a part of the job I really enjoy and it has included writing job specifications, liaising with agencies, arranging interviews with potential employees, conducting interviews, sending out contracts and offer letters, writing admin and department processes, updating employee contact lists, keeping absence records, etc.
Other aspects of the role I've been involved in include: keeping track of staff movements, organising travel arrangements for senior management, sourcing new office premises, arranging office moves, liaising with solicitors, minute taking at board meetings, ordering office furniture and IT equipment, organising health and safety equipment checks, supervising admin staff, conducting appraisals, sending out probationary reminders to management in relation to new staff, keeping personnel records, writing management reports, keeping track of budgets and looking after and balancing petty cash.
One part of office management I've also really enjoyed in the past is organising social events such as the office Christmas party or team building events. When you work for a company that is happy to spend money on staff parties, it really is fun to organise something special for the office Christmas do even down to organising Secret Santa and ensuring there are Christmas crackers available during the Christmas meal! The praise one gets for organising these things goes a long way too - it's good to do a job that people appreciate and thank you for!
HOW SAFE IS IT?
In some companies an Office Manager can be an integral part of the company whilst it's in its growing stages. Once established as the company grows bigger, the need for an Office Manager could be seen as redundant; say the role could then split into various different roles such as Health & Safety Manager, Facilities Manager, HR Officer/Manager, Quality Assurance Manager and PA (these are just examples). The Office Manager role may get made redundant but the person in the position could feasibly take on one of the other roles that their position has been divided up into as the company has grown.
You may find that you have really enjoyed liaising with the landlords, and/or researching and sourcing new premises and/or ordering and monitoring stationery - so the Facilities Manager position could be one for you. On the other hand (like me) you may have really enjoyed the HR aspect of the role and decide to branch out into that area. I've worked both in HR and Quality Assurance roles which have developed due to my experience and skills gained whilst working in Office Management roles.
I hope the sub-heading for this section wasn't misleading? You might have thought I was going to discuss some unsafe aspect of the role such as having to juggle all the different pointy hats you need to juggle as part of the role...
In closing I'd like to mention that Office Managers tend to be female, this is not a necessity for the role, but just happens to be most often the case. Some men don't even like to consider this type of role as sometimes there are secretarial duties associated with it and many people see secretarial or PA work as very submissive and therefore something that only women do. Try telling that to the PA or Office Manager who runs the office with an iron rod and whose boss and colleagues are terrified of her wrath should they not stick to the company procedures when it comes to booking holidays or ordering stationary - also try telling the PA who's earning in excess of £40,000 as a basic salary that she's doing a submissive role? I've known people who worked initially as copy typists or secretaries who've gone on to become Office Managers and then later moved on to become successful HR Managers or Directors...
As a role I'd give Office Management a strong 8 out of 10. It carries some degree of power, but it loses points on longevity - but you can always do what I did and branch out from the role into a more specific arena.
I hope you found the above informative and of use if you're considering going in this direction as a career choice.