There are a lot of common misconceptions regarding office managers. To many, the name suggests that they are someone who looks after the office space, ensuring that all stationary and office equipment are well maintained.
While this can be true, office managers do so much more depending on the company you work for. Sometimes known as business manager, administrative manager or even operations liaison, an office manager is more essential to running a business than you may think.
What is an office manager?
An office manager is responsible for overseeing the general day-to-day of an office. Typically, this means they are responsible for general admin tasks, organising departments, liaising with department heads, managing budgets and ensuring everything runs smoothly.
The role will largely differ depending on how your company interprets the role. For some companies, office management involves keeping the office fully stocked and well maintained; however, other companies see office management jobs as roles ensuring all legal and industry compliances and laws are met.
An office cannot function smoothly without organisation. Your job as an office manager will also involve keeping the filing systems up to date, and ensuring that budgets are kept, and you may need to mediate issues arising between departments.
The responsibilities for an office manager will largely depend on the company you work for. Some companies may add some of your responsibilities to different department heads, while others will ask you to handle things yourself.
The most common office manager responsibilities are:
- Arrange regular testing of office electrical items.
- Assist any departments that need help.
- Carry out appraisals.
- Ensure health policies and other company benefits are readily available for staff members.
- Ensure the office is well maintained, tidy and fully stocked with essentials such as pens, paper and notepads.
- Liaise with department heads to gauge their needs.
- Maintain filing and admin systems.
- Manage office budgets.
- Mediate tensions between departments.
- Monitor HR tasks, such as holiday allowance and sick leave.
- Oversee early-stage recruitment policies.
- Promote training and development courses for staff members.
- Track appointments.
- Use organisational software to keep the office running smoothly.
These responsibilities can change as you rise through the ranks. Office managers may start off with a small number of responsibilities but take on more as they progress in their role.
The salary you earn will be dependent on a number of factors. Those working in London tend to command a higher salary than that outside. Your salary will also depend on how your company interprets the role.
Typically speaking, the average office manager salary is generally between £28,000 and £35,000. However, with experience, your office manager salary can reach as high as £55,000. If your role is done in conjunction with another, such as an HR manager or sales, you can earn more on top of your main role.
You do not need a degree to become an office manager, but it is useful when applying for jobs. Typically, employers will want people who have a high-level of education, so while an undergraduate degree may not be essential, anything less than a higher national diploma (HND) will likely not be enough.
Those who are looking for subjects to study at university, the best subjects are:
- Business administration degrees
- Business management degrees
- Finance degrees
- HR degrees
- IT degrees
- Management degrees
You can still apply without a foundation degree(/advice/student/foundation-degree/) or HND, however, you will need relevant work experience. Some offices will not be worried by a lack of formal qualifications, but may ask you to complete some managerial qualifications when you are hired. A postgraduate degree is not necessary, but is useful.
Training and development
Your training and development will largely be down to you. Most companies will have in-house training courses for staff members, or will be able to send you on courses from external providers.
The training, and the qualifications you need, will largely depend on the company you are working for and their industry. For instance, if you work in a regulated industry, like finance, you will need to complete a continuing professional development (CPD) annually, to show that you understand the issues facing your sector and that you are aware of the commercial responsibility within the sector.
Membership to regulatory bodies is welcome, but not a requirement. As an office manager, you may be expected to register with industry organisations, for instance, those who work in accounting, may be required to register with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW).
These institutes will provide you with support, a training and development office management course and lecturers and networking events. A more tailored institute for you to join, might be something like the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), who also offered tailored qualifications to your profession.
Professional qualifications are often more important than university degrees. As an office manager, having a qualification such as the IQ IAM Level 4 Certificate in Office and Administration Management, from the IAM, will prove more useful than any university degree.
An office manager needs a wide range of skills. As you gain more seniority and are given more responsibility, you will need to ensure that your leadership skills are well-refined as well.
The skills needed in most office manager jobs or admin manager jobs are:
- An ability to mediate potential issues.
- An ability to work under pressure.
- Brilliant IT skills.
- Excellent interpersonal skills.
- Excellent mathematical skills.
- Excellent organisational skills.
- Excellent project management skills.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Prioritisation skills.
- Problem-solving skills.
- The ability to manage your workload and time effectively.
These office manager skills can also be honed through further training and development. Of course, you may find over the course of your time at a company that you pick up other skills you never knew you needed from your colleagues which can prove invaluable later on.
Work experience as an office manager should be relatively straightforward to find at a pre-university level. Of course, your ability to find work experience will depend on what confidences a company has and how much sensitive information they are happy for you to handle. Most companies will allow you to shadow an office manager or a related staff member to gain some experience in this field, the same can also be said for those at university.
Work experience is helpful when applying for an office manager role, but not essential. Typically, those who have work experience are preferred to those who do not. Your work experience does not necessarily need to be as an office manager. Some companies prefer applicants to have a wide-range of experience across multiple departments. Prior knowledge of sales, marketing and finance, can be invaluable for an office manager at any level.
Some companies will have summer internships. These internships may not allow you to work as an office manager, but will likely give you a lot of experience in a related area of a business and will also allow you to gain some useful industry contacts.
The career prospects for an office manager will largely depend on the company you work for and your own ambitions. As an office manager is not typically an entry-level role, your experience will dictate how quickly you can rise in the company.
Office managers tend to start out as an office manager, but can move into business administration roles. It is common for an office manager to move into other roles such as company secretary, however, this will not be quick, regardless of your experience.
It is possible to move into other areas of the business as well. Office managers often have to liaise with human resources (HR) department members and may decide to move into that department and dovetail their responsibilities as office manager.
While the path to more senior roles is dependent on the company you work for, there is still a path, however undefined. Office managers tend to be the people that companies turn to for internal recruitment at a higher-level, as they will have the required experience of the company, will understand the compliance issues needed for the industry and will understand how to liaise with department heads as well as industry contacts.