4 Office Managers Challenges When Working Hybrid
A successful office manager has a key role in an office. You can literally make or break an organization. Your role is to lead the office, but management is a juggling act with a big responsibility. Challenges are inevitable, especially when moving to a hybrid work model. We help you prepare to prevent and/or overcome those challenges. Let’s go!
1) Managing occupancy
A major challenge for office managers within a hybrid work system is being able to control office occupancy rates. You want to avoid not having anyone come in, but also avoid having an overflow and not enough available desks for the number of staff in the office. Wasting time guessing how many staff members will be in the office each day is not recommended. This will give you extra work when there is too much occupancy and people come to you to solve this.
Keeping track of office attendance with an Excel spreadsheet becomes unmanageable, especially for medium to large companies. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you. A hybrid work software, for example. With such software, employees can book a desk at the office. Whether this is for a specific number of hours or a whole day. As soon as employees arrive, they check-in. As the admin, you can see the number of reservations for the coming days at a glance in a dashboard. You can also see the actual occupancy rate on the day itself. This is a safe option, for example, in case of an unexpected evacuation. You can immediately see how many people are in the office and where they are sitting.
Besides that, it helps employees better plan their office visit and collaborative activities. Your workplace becomes the home to team bonding events, collaboration and building social ties, which is key for building a thriving and connected workplace. Having the right space to hold these important moments will make your employees feel more connected to your company. This is good for employee experience as well!
2) Create an amazing employee experience in a flex office
Since the advent of a hybrid work model, visits to the office must be worthwhile for your employees. This can put a lot of pressure on you as the office manager. By using a desk booking software, you remove some of that pressure off your shoulders. Having insight into the occupancy of the office, helps you better anticipate this in terms of resource planning. When you know exactly how many people will be in the office the next day, this helps you make more efficient purchases. For example, anticipating the shopping list for lunch, coffee, tea, toiletries or printing supplies amongst other things. You avoid buying a surplus of products that could go to waste or buying too little. In addition, insight in the office occupancy helps with the cleaning rosters, scheduling available parking spaces and even access passes to the premises. In addition, you can set up your office a lot more efficiently based on the expected influx. You can read more about space management later in this article in section 5.
When employees notice that everything is well organized during their office visit, you prevent irritation and increase the likelihood of a positive experience! This employee experience can lead to staff being inclined to come back to the office more often. In fact, for many companies, it proves to be difficult to get their staff back in the office. If you would like more in-depth information on this, we invite you to read our article Tips on getting people back to the office.
3) Internal communication
When there is news within the company, you are nine out of ten times responsible for its internal communication. This can be announcing a new policy (such as the hybrid work model), news regarding suppliers, or personal news from a colleague. When you work within a hybrid environment, spreading these messages and reaching out to your colleagues proves to be pretty difficult. A big question many office managers struggle with is: how can I reach everyone with my announcement?
You might notice that work-related communication is more siloed. Most hybrid organizations suffer from communication silos as teams fail to share important information with each other. For you as an office manager, this can be a challenge, as information now exists in two silos: in-office and remote. How to avoid or get rid of communication silos in your hybrid workplace? We are happy to share our tips with you:
- Invest in the right channels
A drawback to hybrid working is that within the flow of all written communication, your message may be lost. Finding the right communication channel is therefore a must. This creates a place where employees know that there they can find all important updates and news about the office and company. This could be an intranet, a specific channel on Slack or a daily email update. You may choose to use this channel purely for sending crucial information. For questions, people can go to you or another relevant contact. In this way the channel remains clear and well-organized.
- Use more engaging type of communication
Another way to keep your message from getting lost in the amount of written communication we receive these days is to use more engaging message. Think about sending a GIF, a voice message or a video. You can get a lot of inspiration from social media. Make sure your message is short and sweet, that way employees take as little time as possible to read it, but your message comes across! A nice tool is Loom. This free extension that you can download for Google Chrome allows you to record a quick video for your team with just one simple click. Once you stop recording, you are immediately redirected to the page where the video can be viewed.
- Continue with remote-friendly communication policies
Perhaps during the pandemic, your company experimented with recording video meetings for employees to review at a later time. You can of course continue to do this in a hybrid environment! As a company you can decide to make wide communication "digital-first". Of course, this is not just up to you as the office manager to decide, but you can have a lot of say in this and see best how things actually work in the office. Also in terms of internal communication. The benefit of video content is that it also works more engaging for employees.
Another big advantage of using remote-friendly communication policies is that they also allow you to avoid proximity bias. In short, proximity bias represents the unconscious preference employers have for employees who work in the office over those who work remotely. Proximity - or distance - bias can create all sorts of unintended consequences for individual employees, teams, and your whole organization. And unconsciously favoring in-office employees can make top talent quit. By using a remote-friendly communication policy you can prevent proximity bias. Do you want to learn more about this topic? Toptal gives you more information in their article on how you can treat remote employees fairly in a hybrid workplace.
- Conduct a survey
Another tip is to regularly ask for feedback. How do various teams or employees receive and interpret your messages? Perhaps only 40% find the way of communicating within the hybrid system efficient. In that case we need to look at its cause. Is it because of the channels you use? The way you communicate? The frequency of communication? It is also good to keep in mind that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to internal communication. Think of employees as various “target groups”. Being able to identify with them is crucial. Firstly, not everyone is authorized to have access to certain information. Secondly, this information is even superfluous for some employees. You don't have to do everything by yourself! So be sure to also ask other managers in the company to help you with internal communications.
4) Space management
For many companies and employees, the function of an office has changed. It is no longer the place to work, after all, this can also be done from home! For you as an office manager, this can be a challenge. Because what exactly is the function - aka the “why” - of your office and how do you manage the space as optimally as possible within the new hybrid policy?
We would advise you to start by taking inventory of your space. You can ask yourself questions like:
- How many square feet of space do I have available in total?
- What is the workplace’s total capacity? And what’s the capacity of each individual space?
- How many desks do I need to have?
- What is the function of each of our spaces? (Spots to do concentrated work, zones where people can socialize, spaces that spark and/or foster creativity)
- What technologies does each space need?
In addition, it is also good to know what exactly encourages your staff to go to the office. For example, ask them questions like:
- What draws you to work on-site?
- What spaces do or would you use the most and which ones the least?
- What space types do you need to be productive in the office?
Also consider asking new employees what they need for their onboarding. The office may have a different function for them in the beginning. This also applies to specific teams that actually want to work in the office more than average (such as customer support).
Use key performance indicators (KPIs)
Did you survey your employees? Are you ready to start redesigning your office space? Create KPIs to measure your success. Is your goal to add more creative meeting rooms to increase collaboration or attendance? You can measure this by checking employees’ attendance or their employee collaboration.
Make it as easy as possible for your staff to understand the office. Give them a tour through the building, you can even make this a fun company event! Or, set up the desk booking tool properly with the various interactive floorplans and use signage if necessary.
Managing your office in an efficient way not only gives you as an office manager an overview and more peace of mind, but also ensures cost savings. Rent and office furniture can be a big expenditure for a business. Especially if the space is poorly planned. With space planning you can help design a space that feels more open and spacious while having the necessary amount of furniture for your employees to do their jobs. This saves you on management overhead costs.