What does an office manager do when there’s no office to manage? With more companies switching to remote work than ever before, many of us who had never considered working from home have been required to make the switch.
Whether your work-from-home situation is temporary due to COVID-19 or your company is making the natural switch to part-time or full-time remote work, don’t worry. There is a space for you in the world of remote work and you can still thrive in your role as an Office Manager.
In this article, I’ll be sharing some tips to help you stay productive while working from home as an Office Manager including what tasks to focus on, how to set up your remote office, how to structure your daily routine, and how to communicate with your colleagues remotely.
What Does a Remote Office Manager Do?
The first thing you might be wondering is whether or not your position is safe. Unfortunately, when big, global surprises happen, business owners and executives have to make tough decisions. Approach your manager about working out a contingency plan that keeps your work necessary, or makes sure you get paid if your work does become obsolete. If your company is smaller and more at-risk in situations like these, transparency will help you make the tough decisions for yourself.
If your position is safe, you may wonder exactly which of your hundreds of tasks and responsibilities will still matter if your physical workplace or facility is closed. While we can’t predict everything you’re uniquely responsible for, here are some things to keep in mind as you adapt to working from home:
1. Communication is more essential than ever
Your entire team is in reset mode. Someone needs to step up and serve as the go-to for questions, updates, and access. You may be the gatekeeper to all passwords, logins, databases, setup steps, and troubleshooting. You may be the person who tracks the news, works with stakeholders and executives, and delivers updates to the team. Your leaders may want you to disseminate info about hand washing, self-quarantining, or other pertinent information. In whatever temporary roles you take on, your communication skills will be taken to task. Be ready.
2. The facility may need part-time upkeep
You may still be the person who goes back and forth to the office to acquire things that people need, to keep utilities and machines in proper care, or to mail products, files, or other tangible items to people as necessary. You might even take this as a sign to finally start that office renovation while no one is there - something that would require a lot of your attention.
3. Your vendors will have questions
Even when change occurs, a business doesn’t just stop. Your vendors - business partners and providers, office cleaning crews, outsourced teams, etc. - will likely have more questions than answers. As their point of contact, you’ll likely be fielding a lot of calls and emails (Eden can help with this).
4. Your team needs you
The biggest part of what you’ll contribute from home will be for others. As the Office Manager, your innate ability to anticipate your team’s needs and cater to those will be invaluable. Your team will need you to communicate new roles and rules help to triage technical concerns and project issues, and generally keep everyone integrated. Without you, many team members would feel stranded.
These aren’t exhaustive of the tasks and projects you’ll take on from home. Just remember - if you can do it from a phone or computer, you can do it from home. Prioritize getting answers about the tasks you do that are purely physical and non-digital and remember, if your office is shut down, those won’t be important for a little while.
How to Setup Your Remote Office
No one understands more than you do just how important our space is to our productivity, morale, and well-being. An important part of an Office Manager’s role is ensuring the sanctity of the working atmosphere. It should come as no surprise that at home, a place where spaces blend into other spaces pretty naturally, you’ll need to set up, preserve, and protect your working space. Here’s how:
1. Protect your workspace
We don’t all have a separate office in our homes. In fact, many people who work from an office don’t take work home at all. If this is the case for you, or if you’re now forced to share your office with two dogs, three kids, and a spouse, carve out separation. If remote work is temporary for you, make do by shutting yourself into a bedroom or commandeering an area of the dining room. You may need a separate, quiet space to take calls, even if it’s suboptimal.
If you can avoid working from your bed or the couch, do it. Your posture and productivity will thank you. The best-case scenario when working from home is to wake up every day to an office that stays where it is put. This will cut down on the time it takes to set up a new area every day.
2. Get technical
Make sure you have everything you would ordinarily need at work, plus backups. Test your internet connection and make sure it performs as optimally as possible. Make sure you set up and use that 2nd monitor you usually use. If you are using your personal laptop for this period, make sure you have the logins and access you would use on your work machine.
3. Look for the light
If you can, choose a working space that allows you control over your interior lighting and the addition of some natural light through a window. Natural sunlight will help you feel connected to the outside world, give you energy, and help you destress when things get tough.
4. Consider the view
Another great reason to work near a window is to get some perspective. If you can’t work in an area of your home that allows you to look out on birds and trees, or the bustle of city life, make sure that something in the space does visually stimulate you. Add photos of people you love, steal a piece of artwork from another room, or put out a few knick-knacks that will make you smile. A more sterile or minimal work environment might be perfect for some, but creature comforts can be motivating, too.
5. Add sound
Music is proven to alter our psychology and, especially during times of stress or newness, a familiar song could be what gets you through the day. If you don’t like music while you work, you might try ambient sound, a podcast, or an audiobook. Make a playlist or two that are work-friendly and get some headphones so you can drown out household distractions, maintain a great mood, and keep your energy up until quitting time.
Set Sustainable Work-from-Home Routines
Here are some tips to help you establish a productive routine while working from home:
1. Reframe your mornings
If you’re not going into the office anymore, you’ll gain some extra time in the morning. You might be tempted to use this time to get more sleep and if that’s a deficit for you, that’s perfectly fine. However, it’s wise to make sure you maintain some sort of morning routine to retain a sense of normalcy in the house, make sure you’re truly ready for work when you begin each day, and honestly, to keep you sane.
If you work out in the morning normally, keep doing it. If you make breakfast at 7, make breakfast at 7. If you want to use your extra time to journal, add a yoga session, spend more time cuddling your kids, or even just reading for a while to start the day peacefully, do it! You might develop new routines that you take back to the office with you.
2. Work intermittently and take breaks
Many people who are new to working from home worry that they’ll be less productive. There’s a chance of that. However, more people who work remotely statistically overwork. When there’s no universal go-home time and you’re already home, you may find yourself tempted to get ahead or work through lunch, etc. Don’t do it! Work hard and commit completely as much as you can during your work hours, but take breaks, too. It’s essential to get up and move around, eat meals and snacks as you need them, refill your water bottle, and generally take care of yourself.
3. Stay social with your colleagues and after work
For many people, remote work can feel lonely. In fact, that’s one of the most common complaints from people who do work from home regularly, and one of the biggest deterrents for people who resist working from home. You can stay social while staying home by scheduling check-ins with your colleagues via Zoom, using communication tools like Slack, or dialing the phone the old-fashioned way. The same technology will help you connect to your friends and loved ones while we’re all social distancing, and beyond.
4. Find the good
Because remote work can feel lonely, it might feel natural to fill too much of your time with meetings and calls and video chats. In the inverse, if you’re home with a big family, you might dream of being back at the office with a moment’s peace. In any case, try to find the positives in the situation you’re in. When it’s quiet, appreciate the chance to reflect, pause, rest, or focus on work more deeply. When it’s boisterous, know that this period in history will pass. Celebrate your health and safety, enjoy these extra moments with your loved ones when you have them, and share a smile with someone else when you can.
5. Compartmentalize your non-working life
It can also be tempting to pile on all those house projects, family needs, and extra errands during the workday. If you do need to run something to the post office or pick up some medications, by all means, schedule those into the parts of the day when those businesses are open. If you want to see a friend, make time for that person during non-working hours. Make sure that you don’t get distracted by all the things you could be doing, and forget to do what you should be doing! Set aside an hour per day to run errands or handle chores if you need, but make sure to keep things in their lane.
6. Forgive yourself for adjusting
This new remote shift may have some office managers who have worked for 20 years feeling it’s their first day on the job. Exercise patience and know that you’re not the only one who is adjusting to this new reality. There is a nuance to successfully working from home and you’ll find yours.
Tips For Working With A Remote Team
Once you start getting into remote work, you’ll find your flow. Once you have a good office setup and a routine developed, you will thrive. As the Office Manager, your team will likely turn to you for advice to make things work smoothly and keep everyone functioning.
Here are a few more tips to help you and your team get the most out of remote work:
1. Over-communicate expectations, needs, and encouragement
Right now, your team needs to feel positive and encouraged. Once they do, they need clear communication of expectations from their working hours, the ways they use technology, how you all communicate, and the specifics of what needs to be done. Office Managers can disseminate encouragement really easily, and should also sync up with department heads to reorganize and distribute tasks.
2. Carefully communicate constructive criticism, redirection, and change
A big challenge for remote teams is to successfully communicate negative thoughts or concerns. You will still need to find a way to provide criticism and redirection to the team as needed, and you may be cast as the harbinger of change or news for the organization, too. When tough topics need to be addressed, it’s best to do so face-to-face on a video chat. While feelings and feedback should be delivered this way, it’s also smart to document everything and send email or project management follow-ups as needed. This way, nothing gets lost in translation.
3. Help curb speculation, worries, gossip, or criticism
Now is not the time to speculate, worry, gossip, or critique your team. These are already practices that can sour an office atmosphere, but there’s no room for tonality or sarcasm when you’re remote. Things can get misconstrued easily. If you see these negative behaviors happening on the chat or in emails, take the initiative to end it, and reach out to any accountable parties to explain the harm. There’s no need for punitive measures, as we’re all learning through change, but when big changes happen in an organization - and especially across the Globe - we need to exercise patience, forgiveness, generosity, and gratitude. Emulate those, expect nothing less, and enforce positive practices where necessary.
Embrace The Changes To Your Role As An Office Manager
With remote work, what you gain can be much much more than what you’re leaving behind. Remote work opens up a work-life balance and wealth of possibilities that in-office work can’t give. If nothing else, you’re home all day with your kids, your dogs, or your favorite pair of slippers and that’s a good thing!
The best advice for this change, and any changes to your work, is this: Find what works for you while you must, do what you can with what you’ve got, and help others do the same. As the Office Manager, these were already your best and most brilliant skills.
Looking for a way to manage your office more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your workplace.