To ensure the smooth running of an organisation, an Office Manager is essential. We knew that already, but the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed this once more. Dividing the Office Manager's tasks among other departments may work in times of cost-cutting, but a key role like this is important for organisations that dare to think ahead and grow.
Femke Strijckmans, Senior Consultant at staffing specialist Walters People and specialist in recruiting this talent, explains what makes an Office Manager so indispensable in a healthy organisation.
What does an Office Manager do exactly?
Femke: "An Office Manager within the organisation has an all-round function with a lot of responsibilities. That includes some facility management, like organising office maintenance, purchasing office supplies, etc. so that everyone can do their work. In some organisations, the Office Manager also takes on a number of HR tasks, such as organising training for staff, carrying out the initial screening of CVs for certain vacancies or managing the car fleet. Particularly in small structures, general administration is often added, ranging from telephone, e-mail and agenda management for the management team to the practical organisation of business trips. In an SME where the finance and HR team is relatively small, the range of tasks is even more diverse and the Office Manager will, for example, also take on accounting administration, accounts receivable management and cash planning. In large international organisations, the Office Manager often supervises the support team such as the secretaries, and reception staff."
What education and skills are important to work as an Office Manager?
"Ideally, an Office Manager should have a Bachelor's degree in Office Management, but this is not an absolute must," says Femke. "In this position the soft skills are the most important. Precisely because it is such a varied job, an Office Manager must be flexible and have strong organisational skills, as well as the necessary IT skills. Office Managers have been extremely busy over the past few months: employees suddenly had to work from home as much as possible. For organisations where this was not yet commonplace, it required major adjustments in a short period of time. The offices usually remained empty, so new appointments had to be made with the maintenance team, scheduled deliveries, etc. In such situations, employers are fortunate to be able to count on the good care of the Office Manager to keep everything on track.
Problem-solving, taking initiative and taking on responsibilities are also a must. And of course an Office Manager must radiate confidence and be reliable. After all, he or she has to deal with organisation’s confidential information on a daily basis. The Office Manager is one of the few people who is in contact with almost everyone in the organisation. Good language skills and communication skills are therefore indispensable. What we notice especially with employers looking to recruit an Office Manager is that they are very strict in their selection. Precisely because the Office Manager is a key figure within the organisation, it is important that there is a good fit with the company culture and the people who work there."
What about the current demand for Office Managers on the labour market?
Femke: "At the beginning of last year, the demand for Office Managers was high. After the first lockdown in March 2020, we noticed a small decline, mainly because organisations wanted to save on costs. Some employers decided to put their Office Manager on temporary unemployment and to split the broad range of tasks among the various departments such as finance and HR, even though they already had their hands more than full as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This may work for a while, but it increases the workload on these people considerably. And that brings along risks, especially when employees within these departments drop out due to illness for example.
Fortunately, over the past few weeks we have noticed a turnaround and we see that the demand for Office Managers is back at the level it was at the beginning of last year. Organisations are again thinking ahead and investing in their growth.
To ensure that the pressure on departments such as HR and finance does not become too high and that they can once again focus on their core business, it is important to have someone in house who can take care of the day-to-day operations of the organisation. Fortunately, employers realise this too. Hence the rising demand for Office Managers again.”
What does the career path of an Office Manager look like?
"An Office Manager is not a starter job, but a job in which you evolve after a number of years of work experience. This can be in an administrative role, but also from a sales or marketing background, for example. An Office Manager who wants to take the next step often chooses what fascinates him or her most in his or her role. That can be facility management, but also a commercial function or a job within communication in the same company or elsewhere. But an Office Manager in an SME can just as easily grow into another Office Manager position within a large organisation, where he or she is given more responsibilities, whether or not across multiple sites," says Femke.
Finally: how much does an Office Manager earn?
Femke: "An Office Manager with limited experience can count on a gross monthly salary between 2500 and 3000 EUR. The size of the organisation in which he or she ends up and the scope of the tasks and responsibilities play an important role in the remuneration. For example, very experienced Office Managers in a large structure can see their salary rise to 4000 EUR gross per month or more. In most cases, this salary is further supplemented by an insurance package, a mobile phone, meal vouchers and a laptop, certainly in this period where working from home is still the norm."