Ah, the Office Manager. The unsung heroes of the corporate world, Office Managers are often the backbone of thriving company cultures. From onboarding newcomers to organizing external-facing events and internal team-building activities, Office Managers are the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly.
Often the only people on staff who engage with employees at every level, in every department – from interns to upper management – Office Managers have a bird’s-eye view into how companies work. With this unique perspective comes great opportunity and great responsibility. As an Office Manager, you are not just managing spaces. You’re curating the modern work experience and helping people effectively collaborate. Office Managers have to keep the fire going by setting the right vibe and making things run smoothly. Like the Greek goddess Hestia, they keep the homefront cozy, prevent workplace conflict, and ensure the company is recruiting and retaining world-class talent.
In the post-pandemic world, enabling in-person collaboration has never been more important or more difficult. With the transition to hybrid work, the Office Manager’s role has gotten more complicated, having to encourage workplace attendance while maintaining communication flows and cultural consistency between co-workers who work remote and in-person.
Gone are the days when offices were just a place full of chairs, tables, and that one flickering fluorescent light that drove you insane. With average office attendance hovering at just over 50% of pre-COVID levels, an Office Manager must create an ambience that makes people want to brave public transportation to come in. Today the workplace has to galvanize employees and support their creativity through the nine-to-whatever grind.
There’s not a lot of guidance on how to take on the new set of responsibilities while continuing to balance the previous ones. That’s why we have compiled the Office Manager’s Survival Guide – nine tips for making workplaces enjoyable or at least bearable, courtesy of your friends at Bevi.
Understand the power of first impressions
Have an important client coming in? Wow them with your selection of niche coffees and sparkling water – offered in a glass, not paper or plastic, because you run a classy, environmentally-conscious workplace, of course.
And why not throw in a plant or two? Studies show that having indoor plants in the office can lower stress levels, promote relaxation, and even improve employees’ brain functioning and cognition through their gradual release of oxygen. We love Bloomscape’s curated collection of exotic succulents and flowers that can be delivered straight from their greenhouse right to your office’s doorstep, arriving healthy and mature, in pots made from recycled plastic. Gather around the Money Tree, which, besides the inspiring name, we appreciate for its air-purifying abilities. They also offer a line of low-maintenance plants which can handle a bit of neglect – perfect for those days when the irreplaceable, on-top-of-it Office Manager needs to call in sick.
Re-imagine spaces for brainstorming and collaboration
After the pandemic disrupted regular office life, employees around the world had a chance to reflect on how their workplace setting could better support creativity and productivity. There’s been a new opening for re-imagining common spaces – for the creative Office Manager, the post-pandemic workplace is a blank canvas.
Think about your company’s values and mission, and how they can be mirrored in your choice of decor. If your company is a creative team of entrepreneurial types seeking to disrupt an industry, the art on the wall should be energizing and inspire forward thinking. If your company is all about inspiring beauty or promoting wellness, perhaps creating a zen-like atmosphere will be best for aligning employees’ state of mind with the product or service.
Whether you need furnishings for a lounge where workers can comfortably collaborate side-by-side or a conference room that will enable hours of focused conversation, Poppin can be a great resource for inspiration. (This standing table is on our personal wish list, and we like their Goal Dry Erase board for furiously jotting down ideas).
Often neglected, workplace common spaces are essential for making sure communication flows seamlessly and creating a place where people working on different teams can share what they’re working on while hydrating and/or caffeinating – or both, simultaneously. These places can double as sites for sharing HBO recommendations.
Turn co-workers into friends
Yes – the team building event. We know, we know, everyone loves to make fun of them. But what could be better for forging bonds than taking twenty colleagues who would otherwise never spend time together and locking them in a small room that they have to figure out how to escape together? For the claustrophobic, an outdoor excursion or karaoke night can be a good Escape Room alternative. To engage remote teams, Luna Park offers a series of logic, wordplay, and trivia games, moderated by a live comedian from their production studio.
While sometimes scoffed at, giving people opportunities to make friends at the office can have huge trickle-down benefits. Team building events provide opportunities for people working on different projects to have a chance to connect and remember they’re a part of a common mission. A 2022 Gallup survey found that people with close work friendships were seven times more engaged than other employees, and were also less likely to be looking for jobs elsewhere. When people trust each other, they can work together better and challenge each other more, which can help your company innovate into the future.
Heads of departments may seek your help in organizing events for their teams, but the biggest impact can come from cross-departmental mixing. Easy options include everyone who started in a certain quarter, or even everyone whose birthday is in a certain month. A great opportunity for Office Managers to show leadership is to proactively propose a budget and plan for these events.
Figure out your time-management flow
In the bustling world of modern business, most Office Managers have more things to do than time in the day. To juggle all the tasks on your hands, a few techniques that work for our team members. For intense tasks that require prolonged concentration, try Pomodoro: 25 minutes of sustained attention, followed by a break of five minutes. Since building relationships throughout the company is an important part of an Office Manager’s success, those five minutes can be a great chance to grab a coffee or water with a colleague.
To keep the to-do list to the essential, the 2-minute Rule can help you put out fires before they happen: if
something takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. When the to-do list piles up, productivity tools like Notion and Asana are great for letting you organize your big-picture goals and time-sensitive tasks, all in one place.
Time management is personal, and every Office Manager needs to get in the flow of what works best for them. But the best way to maximize efficiency is to stop an item from even entering your to-do list.
Delegate what you can
You don’t mind a little shameless self-promotion, do you? Good, because this is where we introduce ourselves.
Bevi is a revolutionary water dispenser serving sparkling water on tap with the option to add caffeine, electrolytes, vitamins, and your choice of thirteen mix-and-match flavors. Wi-fi connected and sleek, installing a Bevi in your office saves you time and significantly reduces your office’s carbon footprint, removing the clutter of plastic bottles and cans from the office. Bevi dispensers automatically keep track of inventory and have teams on the ground across the country ready to help you restock. Gone are the days of taking inventory, storing, replenishing, and recycling – we know you have enough to think about already.
A few other options if you like your caffeine hot in a mug: Cafection’s Encore Ground coffee machine offers everything from hot chocolate to gourmet barista options, and like Bevi can be touchless, so employees can order recipes from their smart phones. VendiBean’s machines, designed for high volume offices, offer vegan-friendly choices. Like the Bevi Countertop and Standup 2.0, Cafection and VendiBean’s machines utilize real-time data reporting: providers are alerted when service is needed, without you needing to break from what you’re doing.
Whether you’re looking for coffee, healthy snacks, or sparkling water, building partnerships with trustworthy, innovative vendors is a great way to outsource your office administration tasks so you can
focus on the big picture.
Create opportunities to bond about something bigger
Organizing volunteer side-events or company-wide charity drives are all ways Office Managers can reconnect daily workplace operations with the company’s larger mission, or simply with an important cause. At Bevi we’ve done beach clean-ups and neighborhood plastic pick-ups because our mission as a company is to eliminate single-use plastics, but we encourage you to explore options that align with your company’s mission and values.
A leader needs to rally the company to take time from their day jobs – since realistically their responsibilities aren’t going anywhere – and block off their calendar for volunteer activities. That leader could be you! For volunteer events to truly demonstrate a commitment to a cause, both junior and senior members of the team must participate. Office Managers are uniquely positioned to pull in team members throughout the ranks.
Encourage considerate conference room behavior
Is your office plagued by rule-breakers, blocking off the conference room for recurring meetings and not showing up for them? Does it make you frustrated to see groups of energetic people, dying to collaborate but missing out on a space for it? Try implementing some of entrepreneur Ben Horowitz’s advice and switch up your system.
Noting how placing a horse head on a bed of a Hollywood producer worked better for getting an actress a role than politely sliding a bill across the table – at least in The Godfather – Horowitz observes that shock can be a useful mechanism for producing cultural change. It’s hard to shake people out of repeat behavior.
Rather than put a gentle sign on the wall reminding people to cancel reservations they don’t need in advance, try offering an incentive system. Leaders with a star record of checking-in for their conference room sign-ups could be rewarded with a nice plant or lunch on the company. It doesn’t have to be something big – just a small sign of appreciation for how they’re contributing to the general good work atmosphere and office efficiency.
We all know life changes in a second, and some clients are unpredictable. So make your booking system flexible and easy to access. Companies like Meetio offer software solutions for streamlining meeting room management, so employees can book and cancel rooms from their smart phones and get reminders of their upcoming reservations.
You don’t need to kill a horse to change conference room culture. Just some new tools.
Give your co-workers something to get excited about
Hungry, anyone? Providing lunch for workers is a meaningful way to promote a healthy work culture, boost productivity, and increase employee retention. EzCater’s Food for Work study found that free or subsidized lunches were the most-appreciated work perk, beating wellness benefits and flexible work arrangements. Having food on site significantly increased employees’ office attendance. We’re not surprised – we love food, too.
EzCater offers corporate catering solutions where companies can easily track expenses and set limits on price-per-head and delivery fees. Employees get to choose from a rotating selection of local caterers, allowing for a variety of cuisine.
If free lunch isn’t realistic for your company’s budget, you can still take steps to encourage employees to break bread, or clink forks, by organizing occasional group take-out orders from local restaurants. The health-conscious Office Manager might consider setting up a Sweetgreen Outpost, so customizable, healthy lunches are sent in batch orders to your company’s designated pickup location, at a reliable time co-workers can count on.
Seek feedback and act on it
Last but not least, always seek feedback. Whether it’s about the new seating arrangement or the latest addition to the pantry, it’s essential to know what employees think. Regular feedback sessions can offer valuable insights and help you make informed decisions, as you help lead your company through its next chapter. We’ve found that brief surveys via Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or more specialized
tools like CultureAmp are very effective to collect feedback after team-building events, volunteer events, or even about the day-to-day workplace. They also convey to the team that you’re serious about continuously improving the employee experience.