The phrase “in a post-pandemic world” is popping up everywhere these days as we continue to consider the future of the workplace. But, we all know that the workplace has already changed (and, unfortunately, we’re still not certain of when we’ll be living in a truly post-pandemic world). In particular, when we talk about the future of how employees and companies treat the workplace, the “new normal” is likely closer to the permanent normal. We are in an era of navigating new mentalities about work and new traditions. In the process, many roles have already evolved to help companies keep things running smoothly. When it comes to the role of Office Manager in particular, a little bit of faith from companies and the decision to allow the skills of an Office Manager to be applied in new ways can lead to big wins for everyone involved.
We are now adjusting to a newly re-defined understanding of the workplace. Employees who saw how the pandemic uncovered the strengths and weaknesses of current work culture have new expectations for employee care and work flexibility. At the same time, employers are beginning to want to form more concrete practices and some are eager to get employees back into the office—for some companies, the remote experience may take away from the quality of business operations or stifle the oft-underappreciated importance of building team camaraderie. How can Office Managers help?
By acting as a culture officer.
It’s not outrageous for businesses to want the advantages of getting employees back together in the office—some of the best and most impactful ideas come not just in meetings, but in the in-between communication that happens when a team is in-office, constantly collaborating. But, it’s not reasonable to force employees who have been enjoying the benefits of remote work to give it all up—it’s worth noting that these benefits aren’t as frivolous as being able to stay in your pajamas, but can include providing childcare and eldercare. A hybrid work culture is what employees are asking for, one in which they have a say in what kind of in-office/remote balance works best for them (and if productivity stays up, why shouldn’t employees have this kind of control over their own schedules?). When finding this balance, Office Managers can use their communication and HR skills to work directly with employees when creating a hybrid plan, and regularly check in with employees to make sure they’re happy with how things are going. As the Harvard Business Review put it, “employers must get serious about adapting to employees’ needs by soliciting their input along the way” if they want a hybrid or otherwise “flexible” model to work, and particularly if they want to hire and retain the best employees.
On a granular level, Office Managers can help keep hybrid work organised.
Naturally, having a team of employees who are in the office some days and remote on others has the potential to become complicated—that’s natural when you add an extra step or option to any process, and employers shouldn’t jump to overreact. Creating a hybrid plan might take some trial and error, but it’s very much possible, and Office Managers can be a massive help in streamlining the process. Setting up a process for organised hot desking—a process in which employees take whatever desk is available on a given day, rather than having one permanent assigned spot—is one way Office Managers can make employers and employees feel that coming up with a schedule of in-office days is easy. Naturally in the time of Zoom and Google Meet calls galore, there’s tech that can help Office Managers organise and manage hot desk booking, like Kadence.
Along with organising hot desking, Office Managers can also help structure the different work environments available to employees. This means organising in-person meeting rooms and co-working spaces as well as helping employees set up efficient workplace set ups at home for the days when they’re working remotely.
As we embrace a new style of flexible work, Office Managers can help employees embrace a fresh perspective.
With ideas for a hybrid work model opening employers and employees up to new ideas of flexible working, now is an ideal moment for businesses to redefine what it means to come into the office. It’s no secret that many people don’t exactly rocket out of bed in the morning excited to make their morning commute. But, Office Managers have the potential to make employees a little more optimistic about what it means to go into work. How? By helping to create an in-office atmosphere that emphasises collaboration. As they gather employee feedback to create the right hybrid work plan, Office Managers can also work with employees to make time at the office engaging and impactful: discussing the idea of task-focused in-office days, and framing time at the office as time that will be used to do all the work-related activities that are the most difficult or awkward to do over Zoom: like actively brainstorm, structure projects and collaborate with their fellow employees. Providing this structure can help prevent employees from feeling that the office is just another, much less convenient location for them to work alone at their desk, especially when compared to their home office or the coffee shop next door. Office Managers can also use this new special significance of in-office time to create a more focused and involved onboarding process for new employees.
An additional way Office Managers can ease both companies and employees smoothly into a new hybrid model is through overseeing new plans for time-related work flexibility. Many businesses already have flexible work policies or are introducing new plans for flexible work options—in one survey, 80% of companies polled said they currently offer flexible work arrangements. Flexible work offerings allow employees to have more autonomy and a say in what work/life balance allows them to both complete their tasks successfully and have more satisfaction on a holistic level. Office Managers are in a unique position that would allow them to oversee a flexible work strategy and guide both employees and employers through in a way that makes everyone happy.
We are all adapting to a new way of being, and like other areas of life, striving to embrace and make the best of changes is often the strongest strategy. For companies, allowing employees to use their talents in new and effective ways is a no-brainer and will help us all rise to the occasion. As office leaders and organisational experts, Office Managers have many talents that can make them champions of the new hybrid office. But of course, neither employees nor employers should put a cap on evolving: everyone should be encouraging discussions about how we can make the future office more friendly to us all.