First time Office Manager – making your mark

By Holly Snowden-Keane

Take a moment with me to regress back to 2013- ‘Blurred Lines’ was playing on repeat, Theresa May was blissfully unaware of her turbulent future, and we were celebrating the birth of Prince George with jubilance. Another significant thing happened in 2013- I started my very first Office Manager position.

I had always known that office and operational management was my calling, so when I was presented with an amazing career progression opportunity I knew I had to really make the position my own and make my mark on the company.

My OM journey from 2013 to 2019 has been exciting, fast-paced, scary at times, but I wanted to share some key points to consider when you are new to an office management role, and particularly if your position is new within the company.

Getting to know you (getting to know all about you…)

First point on the list and possibly one of the most important- get to know your colleagues!

Quite often in OM positions, you will be the central body for staff to refer to when they need assistance, so knowing your people is very important!

One of the first things I did when I started my role was to walk around each and every member of staff and spend some time with them individually to talk about their background, job role and general titbits that they wished to share. This allowed me to get a full picture of the staff within the company and how they all integrated together, how work flowed from one department to another, and exactly how my position ‘fit’ within the organisational structure.

This was particularly key due to stepping into a newly created OM position- inevitably, I was concerned with staff being used to the office environment as it was, and perhaps rejecting the idea of another layer of management being introduced into their day. In talking and trying to understand and appreciate each member of staff and their individual contribution, I was able to offset this successfully.

This also built a layer of trust and respect with my colleagues, as we were all acting with the same goals in mind- to make the company better and maintain the current high standards of service.

Remit me!

Just as important as getting to know your staff, is getting to know your remit.

As all seasoned OM’s know, our roles can vary a huge amount depending on industry or sector specifics. If you are beginning at a company where you are overtaking another OM, this should mean that your remit is very well defined.

If you are starting as a newly created OM within the company, it would be wise to specifically define your remit as soon as possible. It may well be that the company has a ‘let’s just see as we go along’ attitude, which is absolutely fine, but it’s much easier for you to plan your day if you have a least a loose outline of your daily tasks. Your role may change and be defined as you go, but knowing your core activities will mean that any additional tasks that come along can be easily implemented with minimal stress.

Initially, you may have to look after health and safety provisioning, and sundry supplies, and staff training. This can seem overwhelming, but the simplest place to start is by taking detailed notes wherever you go- if you are in charge of the PAT testing, find out who your supplier is, when you are up for renewal, and who your contact is there. Put all of this information in spreadsheets separated by subdivision (i.e. H+S, Office Supplies) and ensure you are up to date with all of your suppliers, contract end dates, etc. Spreadsheets will become your best friend!

‘’The Office’’

Ah, ‘the office.’ We all refer to our individual workplaces with the same moniker, but the reality is, no two offices are made in the same image. Whether you have been in office management for 30 years or are in your first position, the reality is, each and every office you step in to will have their own ways and means of getting the job done.

So have a wander!

Locate your fire escapes, the location and type of fire extinguishers, where your recycling bins are kept. It’s likely you will be in charge of office maintenance, so I would recommend conducting regular office reviews (probably once a month, pick a quiet day that suits you.)

My monthly office reviews never take more than 20 minutes, but I make a point of checking general maintenance is up to scratch, and I also incorporate my health and safety and fire awareness checks in to this as a time saver.

By ensuring all cabling is running smoothly, all fire escapes are clear, and various other checkpoints, I have a really quick and easy way of keeping on top of anything that may arise. Don’t wait for a problem to come to you- having simple checking systems in place will detect and solve obstacles efficiently.

Positive Change

So, you have met your staff, you’ve got a grip on your role and are starting to notice some slight inefficiencies in the business processes.

In many cases, OM’s will deal with business contracts such as telecommunications, energy and infrastructure. If you can see an area of the business that could benefit from a refresh, do not hesitate to suggest this. It is much easier to see where the business can benefit from cost savings/increased functionality when you have been immersed in the environment for a period of time.

If you can clearly see an area of the business that could be improved, do not hesitate to suggest it. Efficiency and awareness are some of the defining characteristics of OM’s, so if you can see that your business could save money by switching to another energy supplier, research it and prepare some hard figures.

Forward thinking and business acumen will serve you very well moving forward, and having the businesses’ best interests at heart should always be at the core of your role.

Tips and Tricks

1. Outsourcing…

It’s common knowledge that OM’s seem to have a ‘jack of all trades’ air about them and tend to be competent in many areas of business.

As amazing as we are though, we cannot be experts at everything, and having such a disparate remit means there are some areas of competency that you may need to call upon the experts. In cases such as these, do onsider outsourcing to a reputable company if at all viable. I have found that sectors of any business that are subject to their own industry rules and regulations (that do not have their own department within your business already) are usually the best place to start.

Three common sectors which tend to fall within OM remit include:

  • Human Resources
  • Health and Safety
  • Fire Awareness

Using Human Resources as an example- this is a heavily regulated sector, with employment law in the UK being some of the most complex in the world. It would be foolish to suggest that you can become a HR professional overnight, and be aware of all of the steps to take in any given circumstance that arises with your staff. As such, outsourcing your HR needs to a company who are experts in the field means that not only are you are always comfortable that you are acting according to UK employment law when dealing with HR, but your time is
much freer to deal with incoming issues.

2. Spreadsheet Love 🙂

One of the universal qualities of OM’s is extreme (sometimes obsessive!) organisational skills, so let’s be honest, spreadsheets for us are a dream.

If you are a new OM and have not yet started your lifelong love affair with Excel, you’re in for a treat.

Personally, I find it much easier to keep track of all of my daily/weekly/monthly and ad hoc tasks by writing my own ‘daily tasks’ log which has details of all of the things I have done that day, broken down by department. I plan my daily tasks up to a week in advance and have pre-determined tasks already included on certain days, so at any given time I can look a couple of days or a week in advance in to my schedule be confident on my core tasks, and where there may be room to complete more one-off jobs.

It’s also a brilliant tool to refer back to- if you forgot whether you served your termination notice for your energy accounts, you can check your own historical records and see if you made an entry on the day in question.

As far as your suppliers are concerned, it is an absolute must to cultivate multiple password protected sheets which include all of the vital information required. For example, if you are in charge of fire safety provision for your company, this will require a sheet for staff training requirements/expiry dates/providers/costings, details of your extinguishers (type/date of last service), details of your smoke detector checks, and your company risk assessment to name a few. Separating each of your ‘competencies’ will make it much easier to keep on top of.

3. Ask and thou shall receive!

Do not be afraid to ask questions- as the old addage says, there are no stupid questions!

This sounds like a straightforward instruction right? Not as much as you’d think! It always surprises me how many people will walk past a leaky tap without asking, ‘is anybody sorting this?’

If you are unsure of a process, or why the company does something the way it does, or even as simple as why is the kitchen sink still leaking- always be inquisitive, and if you can fix the problem, do. You will be appreciated for being observant and conscientious, thus making yourself indispensable.