The office manager is the hidden MVP of many workplaces, the one who takes care of the little details that make all the difference. They remember to order garbage bags, call a repair person to fix the break room refrigerator and spot the double-booked conference room and arrange an alternate just in time. In other words, they’re office superheroes!
Office management is a big responsibility, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into ahead of time. If you’ve recently accepted an office manager position or you’re applying for one, this guide will help you understand the ins and outs of the typical office manager role. Let’s get started by examining the basic things that most office managers do.
What Does an Office Manager Do?
In most organizations, an office manager’s basic duty is to keep the workspace running smoothly and efficiently. That means organizing people, spaces and resources in a way that makes it possible for the company to achieve its business objectives.
Some of the basic duties of an office manager include:
- Purchasing and stocking office supplies
- Organizing training for new hires
- Hiring contractors such as cleaning crews or repair people
- Organizing and coordinating conference room schedules
- Planning events such as receptions and client meet-and-greets
- Maintaining common areas such as break rooms and lobbies
- Creating and maintaining filing systems
- Decorating, organizing furniture and creating room layouts
- Booking business travel for other employees
- Managing other administrative positions such as administrative assistants
However, the role of an office manager often isn’t as clearly defined as some others. Let’s look at some of the differences that can affect how you’ll do the job.
Why Every Office Manager Is Different
First, one important tip for newly-minted office managers: Talk to your superiors and make sure you understand exactly what duties your role entails. This is important because an office manager’s role will be slightly different at every company.
At large firms, office managers often focus on the more traditional office management tasks we just listed. In smaller businesses, however, office managers often assume a “jack of all trades” role. In fact, it’s not unheard of for an office manager in a small company to take on payroll, accounting, HR or IT duties. The unique nature of these positions can make them challenging for new hires to adjust to, although office managers also often become some of the most versatile and competent employees in the office.
Office managers also don’t have to work in a traditional corporate office setting. Any facility where an organization needs administrative support might have an office manager, including a warehouse, a religious center, a university, a hospital or another kind of organization. The nature of your workplace will thus also have a big effect on your job duties as an office manager.
What Skills Does an Office Manager Need?
Becoming an office manager is the perfect gig for someone who loves to make things run behind the scenes. A great office manager will have some combination of these skills and characteristics:
- Taking Initiative: An office manager often has the sole responsibility for important tasks like ordering supplies. That means that you need to take initiative in your role and constantly be stepping up to your duties.
- Attention to Detail: Office managers need a sharp eye for the little things. Just to order trash bags, the office manager might need to remember to pick up 4-gallon trash bags for the office wastebaskets as well as recycling bags for the employee cafeteria. On top of that, they might have to remember which cans require clear trash bags and which ones need black trash bags.
- Organization: Staying organized is the key to success for any office manager. That could mean setting up a system for automatically reordering office supplies, or it could mean keeping track of new hires and impending departures to plan for future desk space allocation. Whatever the key information is, an office manager needs to organize it, track it, analyze it and put it to work.
- People Skills: As an office manager, you might have to deal with employees who leave the break room a mess or people who can’t stand sharing a desk. Interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills will help you create a harmonious work environment.
- Honesty and Integrity: An office manager often has access to company credit cards, building and safe keys and other resources that have to be handled by a trustworthy person. When you accept an office manager role, you’re agreeing to hold yourself to the highest standards of integrity.
- Willingness to Learn: Office managers often tackle the problems that aren’t in anybody’s job description. Thus, a good office manager must be willing to learn, possess a growth mindset and be committed to problem solving.
Advancement as an Office Manager
What do the typical opportunities look like for an office manager to climb the corporate ladder? Because the role can have so many different configurations, numerous paths might be theoretically open to office managers.
In practice, what your duties currently entail and where your specific aptitudes lie is what will determine the most logical career paths for advancement as an office manager. These are some different paths that might be open to office managers seeking to advance their careers:
- Administrative Support: Office management can provide a pathway to managing higher levels of a business’s day-to-day operations. Some office managers become personnel supervisors for a business’s entire administrative staff. With the right training, an efficient office manager might also be a good choice for a vehicle fleet manager or building manager.
- Human Resources: Office managers who find that they love the people-oriented side of their job might be a good fit for HR positions. This can be an especially natural transition if the office manager has experience in developing training programs and onboarding new hires.
- Event Planning: In organizations that hold many events, an office manager role can offer a great springboard into the world of event planning. Office managers know how to keep the plates spinning and stick to a schedule, which are valuable skills for those who manage and coordinate corporate events.