No office is the same. From team dietary restrictions to tending to the finicky plants at reception, every office space has unique needs. As a result, the role of the office operations team varies significantly by company, and each office coordinator and HR manager has learned different tricks for running their office along the way.
To learn how some of the most innovative companies manage their offices, we asked four people and office operations managers in different industries—including retail, data, media, and nonprofit —to share the tools and skills they’ve adopted that have been successful in their respective roles.
At our recent event for office operations professionals, The Effortless Office, the panelists spoke about how they combine tech tools with soft skills to manage their workload, create a great employee experience, and keep their office organized and productive.
Office automation at your fingertips
Each of our speakers discussed how they are responsible for far more than their titles suggest, a phenomenon we have found is common in the office operations field. In addition to managing the office or employee experience, there’s often overlap with tasks like recruiting, HR, executive assistance, and IT. For the panelists, technology is key to expediting their work and balancing competing priorities.
Ashley, the People and Office Experience Manager at Tictail, focused on automating parts of her role as it expanded from executive assistance and office management to human resources. Unable to backfill her office manager role, Ashley looked for tools that would save her time. She relies on:
For performance management and reviews, the platform works for Ashley because it can be customized to her team’s needs.
Managed by Q — Ashley used to spend a lot of time micromanaging her previous cleaning staff. With Managed by Q, she can easily keep track of her office cleaning and maintenance through an online dashboard.
Justworks — To support her HR responsibilities, Ashley uses this platform to automate benefits and answer legal questions about compliance, visas, payroll, and more. Its Slack integration enables her to direct employees straight to Justworks for specific questions.
Michael, the Office Manager and Account Manager at Uproxx, saw a lot of room for improvement when it came to operational efficiencies when he joined the team. He focused on improving processes to save time, and like Ashley, had to automate his office management duties when he transitioned into an account management role.
Seamless — Michael completely automated team lunch days with a Seamless corporate account. He was able to set up individual accounts for each team member, set a budget, and send automated email reminders to place orders. Team members can order their own meals based on their schedule and dietary preferences, which has saved Michael hours every week.
FreshDirect — To cut down on the amount of time spent ordering groceries, Michael setup a recurring weekly grocery order with pre-populated items. All he has to do is audit the list to remove anything that is still in stock in the office.
But our panelists use technology for more than just efficiency and automation. Jordan, the Office Experience Manager at charity: water, uses tech to foster community and improve communication. Her team uses Slack for internal communications, so she found ways to leverage Slack to build culture.
Donut.ai — This bot pairs employees who don’t message one another often and asks them to set up a time to go grab a coffee or donut — or in Jordan’s case, fried chicken. The integration helps teams to get to know each other better and can be set on a weekly or biweekly basis.
High-Five — Jordan created this channel as a place for employees to recognize one another — it’s a digital high-five. The mentions from the channel feed into their quarterly MVP program.
It’s all about the people
Beyond the apps and platforms that make office management easier, are the skills that office operations and HR teams have honed and use to create a great work experience and set employee expectations. According to our panelists, most of this part of their job comes down to understanding your team and proactively using your interpersonal skills and creativity.
Kristine, the Manager of People and Culture at Chartbeat, has focused a lot of her time creating a great culture as her company has grown up and out of its startup phase. Her best piece of advice for creating togetherness on a growing team? Get everyone involved early on.
When you roll out something without the involvement of others, you create more work for yourself and people are less likely to adopt your plan or activity. Because everyone is opinionated about how they spend their time, Kristine found that when she got her team involved in company events early on they became cheerleaders for company culture.
For example, Kristine will email the team about obscure celebrations like National Pi or Play-Doh Day with directions for a competition. For Play-Doh Day she put a tub of play-doh on everyone’s desk and asked them to create their best design (by swapping, bartering, or stealing other colors) and send a photo to her. All she had to do was aggregate the images and create a poll in Slack. The team got really into the first few competitions and ran with it. Now they proactively ask her what they’re doing for obtuse national days.
Michael emphasized that creating culture doesn’t have to be expensive. Like Kristine’s low-cost competitions, Michael starting posting a weekly riddle on a large chalkboard wall by the entrance to the office. His team got competitive about solving them and actively looks forward to the next one, so now all he has to do is put up a new riddle each week.
To get people moving in the office, he created a push-up challenge and Xbox tournaments. Michael created a company-wide calendar invite that reminds the team to stop and do 20 pushups every two hours. Every Friday, team members can play FIFA soccer or Dance Dance Revolution on an Xbox, a healthier work week wind down.
Making an impact
Whether you’re rolling out a new team-facing app to streamline your work or trying something new to foster employee engagement, the best thing you can do is be supportive of your team. No matter what position you’re in, you can make a difference within your company.
Each panelist mentioned the caveat that, in an office full of many personality-types, you can’t please everyone, and it’s best not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, as an office manager, administrator, or HR team member, you should strive to meet please the most people you can. As long as the employees who opt-in to your activities and the office culture are engaged and happy, you’ve done your job.
And beyond pleasing your team, you should feel empowered to focus on creating processes and adopting tools that free up time in your day and so that you can make room to focus on your own professional growth.
Office Manager tested and approved tools
We asked our panelists and attendees what three tools they couldn’t live without. Here’s the roundup:
Productivity and request management:
Food and drinks:
Costco / Monster Savings
HR and accounting:
The Effortless Office is a national event series hosted by Managed by Q that empowers office management and operations professionals to excel in their careers by sharing actionable skills, tools, and ideas for managing a team and workspace. Email Q@managedbyq.com to join us at the next event in your city!