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The Office Manager – Managing the office during WFH

In Five to Nine’s People Leader’s Series: Remote Edition, we highlight leaders who have pivoted into successfully motivating employees to do their best work and feel engaged while working from home during the pandemic. 

Office managers are known as the office manager plus many other roles for an office’s people team. One moment you’re at the reception desk, the next you’re responsible for diversity and inclusion initiatives at your office, and next, you’re scheduling the global all-hands. The title should be more like office manager/diversity and inclusion champion/office food and beverage manager/employee experience lead. To us, office managers should be better known as the heartbeats of the office. 

As we all navigate the waters of working from home, it is crucial that businesses continue to address the needs of their employees. Keeping employees engaged has shown to boost productivity, retention, and profitability. However, the pandemic is completely redefining the way teams communicate and work, and is reshaping the role of the office manager.  

So what happens when the office part of the role is disrupted by the shelter in place orders and company-wide work from home? This week we interviewed Office Manager and People Ops, Sheena Deans, and Office Coordinator, Shira Steinberg to learn more about how they’ve managed to transition their roles and support employees during this time.   

For some laughs, at the end of the interview, check out their favorite memes from the last few weeks.

Five to Nine: As a people leader, how has your role changed, if at all, to meet the needs of a fully remote organization? 

Shira: As an office coordinator, my role revolves around the office. I had to learn how to take the “office” out of my Office Coordinator position – no more catering, no more snacks, no more cleaning; basically, all of our vendors were put on hold, which took a chunk out of my workload. However, I still plan many events, try to get guest speakers, check-in on everyone, work on making communications better, re-evaluate our systems and current traditions to make them scalable and more efficient, and continue to advocate for employee wellness. 

Sheena: My role has been more focused on finding creative ways to keep employees engaged during this time at home.

“I had to learn how to take the “office” out of my Office Coordinator position”

Five to Nine: What key things you are doing to maintain a sense of community for your organization?

Shira: We have a #wellness slack channel where everyone can check-in on one another, provide each other tips on how to deal with things, send over little motivational clips/videos/quotes, and in general keep an open, judgment-free space. It’s a weird time right now, and we all feel that, so I think it’s reassuring to hear it from others. 

Sheena:  To maintain a sense of community our company has created several ways to keep employees engaged through contests (cribs WFH edition, zoom theme contests, college team day, I love the 90s, blanket fashion), group workouts, company-wide happy hours, team lunches over zoom and fun and educational afternoon activities for children of employees, led by employee volunteers.

Five to Nine: Do you think widespread remote work is here to stay? 

Shira: Yes and no. I think many folks will want to go back to the office once things are more secure and can be deemed safe. I think there will be more flexibility as to what we prefer, vs. before our company preferred everyone to work from the office. Now that we KNOW we can be productive from home, I think it will be up to us.   

Sheena:  I think that to a certain degree working remotely will be a norm that is here to stay based on the uncertainty of a cure. I think that companies will have to continue to adapt in order to maintain business as usual. 

“Now that we KNOW we can be productive from home, I think it will be up to us.

Five to Nine: What are your personal favorite new work from home rituals? 

Shira: I’m talking to more people, more often, who I normally may not talk to. Whether they’re new, from another office, or folks that we usually just pass by and say hello/make small talk. We now invest more time into getting to know one another. 

Sheena: Working from the designated workspace I created at home, making time to make lunch and take afternoon walks/stretching, and connecting with co-workers on slack, throughout the day. 

Five to Nine: Tons of funny gifs and memes are popping up, any fun ones you want to share with the world? 

From Shira From Sheena

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