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What’s an office manager without an office?

October 13, 2020 / United Kingdom

Thanks to COVID-19, businesses of all shapes and sizes have embraced working from home. And for many, there’s no definite end in sight. 

But what does that mean for you? 

What’s an office manager without an office? And what if WFH continues long-term? Should you look for another career?

Don’t panic. Office managers face new challenges, and the role is undeniably evolving. But office managers are still vital. 

How is office management evolving? 

It would be a mistake to equate office managers with physical offices. Offices aren’t just physical spaces – they’re people; teams; relationships. And those people need support now as much as ever. 

For example:

  • Does everyone have the tools to thrive working from home? Things that were taken for granted in the office might become new challenges – like printers and photocopiers. How can office managers help employees work around those issues? 
  • How has compliance changed? In physical offices, keeping control over confidential information was easier, but when everyone’s working from home, security could be harder to maintain. 
  • Are meetings running effectively? When everyone’s working separately and juggling new demands on their time, scheduling slots that work across teams is harder. Could office managers help coordinate rotas?
  • What about hiring and onboarding new people? In a physical office, coordinating interviews and getting new hires set-up is much easier. What new processes could office managers implement to streamline remote hiring?

However long WFH continues, office managers play a crucial role in keeping the dispersed office buoyant and productive. 

Saying that though, offices are unlikely to vanish altogether.

Communal, flexible office space is still relevant

WFH has been popular but there have also been drawbacks. For example, HR Magazine found that 25% of employees feel productivity has fallen and 45% miss face-to-face interactions with colleagues. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the movement towards flexible working (global demand for flexible office spaces has grown by 50% over five years, for example) but flexibility doesn’t mean WFH exclusively. 74% of UK employees want to split their time roughly 50/50 between home and the office after all this.

If businesses listen to employees’ needs (which they’re likely to, given that highly engaged teams drive 21% greater profitability), office managers will always have physical office spaces to manage. 

The challenge for office managers will be ensuring the office is COVID-secure and complements the needs of homeworkers too.

For example:

  • How should physical spaces change? Risk assessment must evolve as government guidance does. Office managers should oversee COVID-secure measures like floorplan changes to facilitate contactless pathways, maximum occupancies for shared spaces and installation of hygiene stations. 
  • How should working processes change? As businesses eventually start phasing back to the office again, office managers will need to organise schedules to maximise productivity and engagement while managing the flow of people. 
  • How should use of suppliers change? Office managers may need to re-evaluate suppliers to ensure they’re maintaining strict COVID-secure protocols and can meet the business’ new requirements. Businesses may prioritise suppliers who follow no-touch processes, like contactless food delivery instead of traditional corporate catering. 

Whether businesses are WFH, working from the office or both, office managers are what they’ve always been: the backbone of a workforce that runs smoothly. That won’t change, even if where we work does. 

This blog is part of The team that Eats together initiative, a content series exploring what normal looks like now, and how to enhance the working world to meet evolved employee expectations.

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The views and opinions expressed are based on the research conducted and they do not intend to present an official policy of Uber or any of its subsidiaries. Examples of advice mentioned in this article are based on open source information and assumptions made within the article are not reflective of Uber’s position.