The isolated Office Manager
It's something I've personally had experience of in the past during my career as an office manager, however what has become apparent during my time with Black & White is that this hasn't just been how I've felt - it's actually seemingly pretty common in these roles.
1. No-one knows what an office manager does
I'll try and set the scene... as an office manager (or a variance of this role) you're responsibleility for pretty much everything to keep the office running. What this means, particularly if you’re effective at it, is that things just work and happen – leading some staff to question what you ‘actually do’. It can make you feel pretty unappreciated and undervalued and let’s face it, no one is going to thank you every day for making sure the coffee machine is working, there’s enough pens and pads in the stationery cupboard, or the AC is at the right temperature for most, if not all.
There is of course far more to it than just the obvious responsibilities of stationery and coffee – you’re likely responsible for negotiating these contracts and many others to include insurance for the company, cleaning, catering, flowers & plants, the handyman and engineers. You may also be charged with overseeing Health & Safety, setting up new joiners and making sure leavers are closed off, IT equipment and support, accounts and payroll, reception, meeting rooms and events, perhaps even the office lease and rent reviews. And the list goes on…
Our advice is to communicate as effectively and often as you can with your colleagues particularly if changes are on the horizon. It will stop you feeling so isolated and invite others to come into your varied world a little more, giving you the opportunity to share some of what you do (and why) with them.
2. No one understands the length you go to to get the job done
It is likely no surprise that given point one above, your colleagues won’t appreciate the lengths you sometimes go to just to ensure that move is as seamless as you could possibly have made it, or that the breakfast event went off without a hitch first thing on Monday morning. This isn’t to say that in other roles, employees don’t go to great lengths to get their jobs done – however, as an office manager you’ll likely be bending over backwards and flexing your hours more than most, particularly in medium sized firms.
I’ll give you an example, within the space of a week my team of 4 and I had clocked up a total of 77 hours overtime between us because of a big move that weekend, 3 events morning and night AND an early start due to the BBC filming the trading floor from 6am. We got thanks from the key stakeholders, but I don’t think any of them really understood what we did personally to make that work.
This is something I’m aware happens regularly in these type of roles, and I think doing these projects and events is very much an enjoyable part of the role – it would just be nice if others really understood what lengths you do go to. We’d recommend letting your manager know, if they don’t already, in advance what you plan to do to get these jobs done e.g. there’s an event next week, I’ll be in from 7am to set up. They will soon realise your commitment and flexibility.
3. There's no-one like you in the office
Lastly, and potentially most prominently, what can lead to this feeling of isolation is that often there is no one else in your office doing what you do. Office managers in SMEs in particular are charged with all sorts of responsibilities and are generally the "go to person" as most will call it, where pretty much every employee can throw an issue at you and you're expected to fix it. Yesterday.
In addition, most of these sorts of roles aren't managed by people who've ever carried out this work nor have a good understanding of what's required or actually dare I say it care enough (they just want things running and working, no matter how).
If this is how you feel, my advice would be to flip the perspective: yes, you may be the only one there who can fix certain issues, and handle particular tasks that aren’t the most glamorous however, you are key to that business. Without you, the office simply wouldn’t run as well as it does and you are very much integral to it. So, go and run that office, engage with people as much as you can and be proactive in sharing what you’re doing, why and when to highlight how valuable you are.
In addition, we’ve got something new coming which may help bridge this gap a little… An online space called The Office Management Portal, where we're aiming to create a virtual and physical community for office management professionals.
The events we'll host will provide you with an opportunity to meet and mingle with others in your world, who are charged with a multitude of responsibility varying from the loos and lights to pens and print! For more information, click here to register.
In addition to this, we’re delighted to bring The Office Management Conference to the PA Show in 2022. You can REGISTER HERE to find out more and grab your tickets to these unique, expert office management sessions.