For a long time, when we thought of office management or office administration, we thought of Pam Beesly. The sweet, quiet girl from The Office, who made sure that everyone had what they needed. The common notion of what this role entailed was limited to ordering office supplies, leading the party planning committee, and making sure there was candy at reception every morning.But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Office management plays a much more profound and important role in a business. It’s actually all about building a community. It’s about creating a company culture that employees want to live by. It’s about fostering happiness and connections that nurture a sense of belonging.
While some companies have decided to “work from home forever” after lockdown, and others chose to bring their employees back to the office full-time, most are opting for something in the middle. Enter the word of the year “hybrid”. Office managers and human resources teams are going to need to learn how to balance this community both online and in person. You’re going to need to find ways that can connect the office work and telework or remote work on Zoom. It will become increasingly difficult to gather all your employees in one place at the same time.
Communication is a two-way street. In this new reality, it’s important to make your entire team feel safe and understood. That’s why you’ll need to adapt your people-related perks and policies to suit their new needs as we come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Don’t just tell them what you think should happen—ask them what they think! Carry out surveys asking employees what they want. Do they want to go back to the office full-time? Are they more comfortable with remote working? Do they want to combine work-from-home with in-office time? Do they prefer a hot-desk system? How can you put employee wellness front and center? Find out what will make them feel best in their work environment.
If you and your team do opt for some office time, then you’ll need to make some changes to the office spaces we’re used to. There was a major shift towards open-concept office real estate in the 90s and early 2000s, with the idea of creating collaborative spaces for everyone to work together. Now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we need to take a step back and reconsider this design.To stop the spread of the virus, you might need to consider breaking down the open-plan into smaller areas with physical barriers between workspaces to embrace social distancing and minimize close contact. The days of sealed windows in office towers are on their way out and are likely to be replaced by campus-style office spaces with fresh airflow. You might also need to come up with an office rotation system to limit the number of people present at a given time. You also won't be seeing the back of disinfectants and hand sanitizers any time soon.
OK, this is a tricky one. Yes, COVID-19 is the most significant public health factor influencing our world today. And yes, we don’t know when, or even if, things will go back to the way they were pre-2020. But that doesn’t mean that every decision we make when it comes to our company community and office needs to be dictated by this. Always do what you can to uphold the integrity of your company culture, while keeping your employees safe and staying in compliance with local healthcare guidelines.