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Office Management Basics

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In order to successfully manage an office, regardless of your company's product or even your customer base, you should adhere to some basic guidelines. Here are six areas that you should keep in mind:

  1. Employment and human resources. It's critical to have an employment policy in place. A policy manual gives you a blueprint for the way the company approaches employment. It spells out rules in a way that can prevent later problems. (Imagine working for an organization that came to a standstill each time an employment issue arose.) In addition, you'll want to include a training and development program under this area. Even if your training and development program is modest, you still need to consider building this into your policy. Read Ten Employee Training Tips to learn how to implement an effective training program.
  2. Project management. Keeping track of projects is critical to the successful completion of important tasks and represents an essential piece of documentation. Knowing when things have to be completed and by whom gives everyone a clear idea of what's ahead. Deadlines are less likely to be missed and people are more likely to know their roles. Plus, each project, through careful documentation, can become a useful case study for future assignments.
  3. Equipment and furniture requirements. You don't need every piece of office equipment out there to run a smooth operation. But you do need certain products that are going to optimize people's performance. What you need and how much it will cost are simple but important considerations. Check out What Office Equipment Do I Need for My Business? for a good introduction. And what about software? Are you trying to achieve a paperless office? If not, do you know how you'll store certain documents? Answering these and other questions about equipment will help you to prepare for the growth of your office.
  4. Inter- and intra-office communications. For many small businesses, the responsibility for communication falls upon the office manager. Knowing how and when to communicate key information is vital to successful office management. E-mail blasts, posted instructions at the copier, and weekly staff meetings are just a few of the types of communication that occur within a busy office. Having a communication plan that everyone can adhere to will increase an office's productivity and ensure that information is disseminated clearly and quickly.
  5. Conflict resolution. Conflicts are inevitable. Knowing how to handle them properly, however, will make life easier. Whether you have a formal policy or rely on your own wits, you need to prepare yourself for a wide variety of disagreements. Even with an employment manual, such issues as equitable distribution of work, pay rates, and job descriptions often arise in a company. Ignoring a conflict or waiting for it to dissipate is never the right solution. Having a plan or a policy for conflict resolution will help everyone navigate through a disagreement in a professional manner.
  6. The company and its people. Knowing how to run an office must include understanding the company and its people. Knowing the product line and how it fulfills a need is just as important as ordering more toner for the printer. If you don't understand your company's mission, you won't know how best to support its various functions. The same goes for people — knowing employees' roles, where they fit into the big picture, and how they operate will help you manage the office so that every function supports the people tasked with getting things done. The more you know about how the company works and what people are doing to build business, fulfill customer requests, meet deadlines, and otherwise perform their duties, the more successful you'll be in creating and sustaining an environment that fosters success.

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