Since I moved back to Italy, I realised that it’s tricky to explain what my job title means.
In my previous London Life, I was an Office Manager and Personal Assistant. If you are reading this from the UK (and possibly all the main English speaking countries), you know for sure what I mean. If you’re from Italy, you might have no idea, mostly because this role doesn’t really exist here.
I tried to think why is that so and I think the main reason is that Italy is just so behind in certain fields. Like banking (don’t even make me start on that), or culture at work. There’s no notion that an employee would have a higher performance when there’s a better environment around him/her. Or no possibilities to work from home (not in smaller business or as a one off) because everyone would think you are not working at all, but you’re just home chilling. Which I think people in the UK think anyway but no one dares to say it.
So the problem is culture. If there is no office culture, what would you need an Office Manager for? I mean, that’s not the only thing an Office Manager does (in fact, I wish we were doing just that). But having an OM is helping you to improve your office culture.
But let’s see what we actually do.
I think I have just one word to summarise it: everything.
From buying pencils and notepads, to filling the kitchen cupboards, to being able to multitask because when you’re working on your “monthly expenses” excel someone asks if you could turn down the heating, or if you could help them book a flight, and what’s the name of the best hotel in Helsinki?, but actually Giulia could you please turn the heating up again?.
And then there are normal days as well, when the only things you need to worry about are the sink leaking and the fact that you run out of paper for the printer.
Then there’s the invoicing, the annual suppliers review, checking on the cold of your colleague, asking about their weekends, making sure they are fed and watered (“We are running out of Earl Grey!”), organise birthday cards and gifts without no one noticing. But why don’t we organise a summer activity? And where are we going for our Christmas Party this year?
But wait, there are the new hires to sort out: talk to HR and IT and make sure to welcome them properly.
Every day there’s something new to do or take care of. Office Managers are there, all the time, ready to solve even the impossible and buy balloons when needed (it happened).
So, an OM is someone you can trust, that will take care of all your admin stuff but will also take care of your team. Because, let me remind you, that “real people” work in offices and they are not just machines. Your employees need to be taken care of, rewarded for being good employees and make sure they are happy to come into work the next day. Don’t you want someone more productive at work? That doesn’t spend all morning smoking and having a coffee break?
If so you need to invest, and not just in an OM but also in activities and projects for your team. Have a budget for a small company dinner for Christmas, if it’s too expensive, at least organise some goodie bags for them, for examples.
And don’t even make me started about the Personal Assistant role… that’s a story for another blog post!
So, to summarise Office Managers are a bit like unicorns: they are magical creatures.