“As an office manager, can you effectively manage an office from home?” This is the very question I recently asked in a small poll I conducted on Instagram.

43% said YES and 57% said NO. The results moved a lot in the 24-hour period it was up for, and a number of people voting said “yes, but…”, that is “Yes, but only if I can go into the office, speak to people regularly, run events for everyone where we still meet up” and so on.

However, what if offices were removed permanently by businesses as they may feel that working from home works well – and well enough – for their employees, and the business as a whole?

As an office manager myself, with a major passion for the role and its core objective, which I believe is to support and manage a working environment that is safe and productive for all staff, it really has struck a chord with me as to how the idea of working remotely on a permanent basis will affect those roles and what it means for office, facilities and ops management professionals in the future.

What impact would permanent remote working have on the role of office managers?

I believe, that as office managers we are driven, motivated and caring and we always want to make sure that the environment we create, manage and maintain works. And works well. There’s no doubt we’ll firefight daily to avoid disruption to our colleagues and the business.

Remotely though, without an office to manage and colleagues present, does this role even exist in the same form. Here are some thought-provoking questions to consider:

  • How can you create, manage and maintain a virtual environment long-term?
  • How do you ensure employees are safe and well at their desk in their home?
  • How can you help ensure that the culture is alive and pumping through the business?
  • How can you influence how good someone feels as they walk into work because the flowers you carefully procured have arrived or because the place is spotless and smelling fab thanks to that conversation you had with the cleaning company last week about improving the cleaning?

In short, I don’t think it is possible to manage or even influence many of these often invisible, but vital aspects of office life. Not to the full extent and in the same way as by running a physical workplace and dealing with people in person. Therefore, the impact on office management roles and careers as I see it would be significant and more than likely, we will see a degree of changes for many individuals in the profession.

 If you could manage an office effectively from home, would you choose to?

Assuming a more positive picture with offices still existing in the future, but to continue with some thought-promoting questions:

  • If given the choice to work from home whenever you wanted, could – or would – you continue your office management role from home?
  • If there were barely any staff there because they all chose to work from home regularly as well, would it matter to you?

I always like to reach out on our company’s social networks to get a sense of people’s opinions and feelings on trending topics. On LinkedIn, one of my contacts commented on one of my posts feeling “this pressure to get rid of offices and to go fully remote” and expressing concerns over cutting down on office and admin staff as a result of this movement towards remote working.

Back over on Instagram, a contact told me that they “love interacting with people and keeping morale up in the office”, something I think many office managers and professionals find enjoyable in their roles. Another said “I feel an office manager’s role is greatly to be the face of the company, at least internally. It’s hard to do that from home!”

Although, I’ve  done it in the past where I’ve worked from home on odd days and so to a degree I think it’s possible to manage an office from home here and there, my view is very much that you can’t keep the place safe and productive as an environment if you are not there. Someone will always need to go and do housekeeping checks, ensure the cleaning is up to standard, make sure the supplies are available, catering is running to time and order, meeting spaces are managed effectively and so, so much more.

We’re isolated enough as office managers!

There’s a popular blog I wrote some time ago called “The Isolated Office Manager”  in which I talk about how isolating office management roles can be at times – even in the office – given that there is usually no-one else in the office doing what an office managers does, and knowing what an office manager does.

Why would we want to make ourselves even more isolated by working from home regularly or permanently? It’s so important to be able to connect and interact with people as part of this role and to be able to ensure culture in a company is embedded right the way through, which is often a key part of an office manager’s role. There’s only so much you can do virtually for this and there are definitely limits to how you can interact via technology.

So, in a nutshell, while I think it may be viable to manage an office remotely, I very much question whether it is desirable!

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear from office and facilities management professionals as to your thoughts on this topic. How long is long enough to be working from home as an office manager before it starts to saturate your fundamental role objectives, and is this something you would want to continue if you had the choice?