Rock star. Superhero. Office parent. These are just a few ways to describe an office manager. Central to organizing and overseeing general operations for a business office, the office manager is an essential asset to successful companies.
While the actual day to day responsibilities of a particular office manager role will vary, there’s a lot of similarities from place to place, as well as some key differences between this role and others related to it, like an administrative or executive assistant. Here are some of the most important things to know about life as an office manager, including the differences in responsibilities between office manager vs. administrative assistant.
What Is an Office Manager?
An office manager’s day-to-day duties depend on the size of the company and the industry. Some office managers supervise a whole group of administrative assistants and handle office budgets, while other office managers organize and oversee the work of a smaller office and only work with one or two other administrative people. Generally, though, the primary duties of an office manager include many (if not all) of these tasks and responsibilities:
- scheduling and organizing meetings
- coordinating travel details for business leaders or incoming clients and vendors
- ordering office supplies, including everything from coffee to pens to desk chairs
- supervising and aiding the work of support staff such as secretaries, administrative assistants, receptionists, and office clerks
- delegating work and responsibilities to the appropriate team members
- maintaining and balancing office budgets
- keeping office health and safety policies are up to date
In some offices, office managers also work in an HR capacity, either helping to administer benefits and coordinate payroll or work with a third-party HR organization that helps support the HR needs of small businesses. That’s why discretion, professionalism, and confidentiality are some of the most-needed traits for office managers.
Other skills include:
- Good communication is the ability to be heard and understood. It involves actively collaborating with and speaking to coworkers, managers, and direct reports in email, phone calls, and in-person meetings. Communication is also about listening. Office managers need to be able to listen to the concerns and questions of employees and managers to help maintain a positive environment.
- Detail-oriented. Office managers aren’t just responsible for people; they’re also responsible for purchases and other details. This means paying attention to everything from ordering office supplies to making sure the office fire extinguishers are in working order and up to code.
- Leaders are able to motivate teams. They also must be able to resolve team conflicts and offer constructive criticism to help improve performance and collaboration.
- Analytical problem solving. This might also be called “big picture thinking.” While an office manager is not the same thing as a business owner, there are ways that the office manager can help the business beyond just day-to-day operations. Successful office managers look for ways to help businesses become better – from finding more cost-effective vendors to conducting short training sessions for support staff about time management and productivity. Many business owners task their office managers with resolving inefficiencies and other issues.
The Main Differences in Office Manager vs. Administrative Assistant Roles
Administrative assistants and executive assistants often have a role in organizing events, interacting with clients or customers, managing meetings, and creating presentations, but there are differences in the office manager vs. administrative assistant roles.
The main difference is that the office manager supports the needs of an organization more broadly, while administrative assistants usually support one (or a select few) people within the company. Often administrative assistants support senior managers, directors, or C-suite members.
The job of an admin or executive assistant usually includes tasks like helping to manage the calendar for a specific executive with things like scheduling meetings and appointments and helping to set up travel arrangements. Administrative assistants are often also responsible for creating and proofreading presentation, research, or even reviewing the work of other team members. It’s a crucial role to the personal and professional success of individual executives and the business as a whole.
On the other hand, office managers have a broader range of responsibilities. Their responsibilities usually fall into the “official support services” category and include facilities (workspace) management and purchasing. Many office managers will choose office supply vendors and manage these relationships and all purchasing. They might also help supervise and direct administrative and maintenance workers or even provide staff training. For some small businesses, office managers assist with bookkeeping, personnel review, and other business-critical tasks. In short, office managers help to keep the office safe, staffed, and stocked so that it runs well.
Where Do Office Managers Work?
The short answer is “pretty much everywhere,” but there are some kinds of businesses that tend to rely on them and hire them regularly.
- Healthcare and medical offices
- Dental practices
- University offices
- Financial organizations
- Nonprofit organizations
- Staffing and recruiting agencies
Office Manager Tips
An office manager is a leader – they help keep teams on track and are a key part of employee satisfaction and client success.
For anyone looking to become or currently employed as an office manager, here are some tips for office manager success.
Know the mission.
What’s the mission and how can an office manager support it? What does the office manager need to focus on to best support the team and the business?
Establish team goals.
Goals create purpose. They help drive work forward and keep productivity and motivation high. Goals also create a sense of pride and achievement when they’re reached, which boosts employee morale (a responsibility that often falls, in part, to office managers). Getting everyone on the same page helps everyone perform better individually and more effectively as a team.
Communicating goals and expectations clearly is one part of this. It also means offering constructive feedback, asking the right questions, and quickly communicating any changes to roles, work, project deadlines, and more. Office managers will often go the extra mile in communication and offer encouragement to team members with a card or as a shout-out in a team meeting. Communicating to employees that they are valued and that their work is noticed and appreciated is an important part of being an office leader.
‘Fun’ looks different in every office, but workplace professionals have long noted that a more fun work environment actually contributes to – not detracts from – employee performance and contributions. Make a case with upper management for something as simple as casual dress or advocate for team outings; anything that creates a better dynamic or increased collaboration is better for the business.
Be a model and a leader, but not a friend.
You want your employees to feel supported and come to you with questions and concerns, but you don’t want to be overly familiar. Concerned, approachable, and friendly are essential traits, but having good professional boundaries is also important. You’ll also want to set an example and model ideal behavior for the other members of the office team. In everything from arriving to work on time and jumping in to help on projects and meet deadlines, your behavior is observed and keeps team morale and performance up.
Many of these responsibilities go above and beyond expectations for admin or executive assistants, further differentiating the differences in office manager vs. administrative assistant work. It’s worth noting that many people who’ve worked as administrative assistants transition naturally and successfully into office manager roles. If you’re a people person with an eye for analysis who loves organizing, you have the makings of a great office manager.
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