When Recess Creative hired me as the office manager in 2015, I was deeply impressed by the commitment of the leadership to the people of this 15 person team. To hire a full time employee whose 40 non-billable hours a week go toward the smooth running of the office and looking after the well being of this talented group speaks volumes about the core values of the organization.
As office manager I spend much of my time focused on behind the scenes comfort. If you need a snack, I’ve placed a wide range of them in the cupboard within your reach. If the toilet overflows, I mop the floor and get the restroom back in working order before you have to pee again. If you lost your office key, I have a spare. I regularly check for burned out light bulbs to ensure you have enough light. If you had a bad weekend, I have chocolate and an open schedule so that we can talk it through. Bubbly water stocked in multiple fridges: check. Paper and toner in the printer: check. Dishes washed: check. Potluck menu gaps filled: check. Plants watered: check. Birthday cards circulated: check. Do you see the common denominator? It’s all tied to a physical space.
Well we left our office on Friday, March 13, 2020 and will not be back in a physical space for some unknown period of time. What am I supposed to do now?
At first it was a lot of making sure people had what they needed to do the work from home; technology, office chair, deep breathing exercises, boundaries from other people in their household. Ok. We got through that part pretty quickly. Then it became days and days and days of learning about how to help people cope with the drastic changes the entire working world was experiencing, the fear and uncertainty of those changes and the virus. That had me living in a world of webcasts, statistics and solutions that big companies were testing. Mostly it just stressed me out and did very little to help the people of Recess. So I stopped doing that.
It was about 3 weeks in when I realized something; the thing the people need most is someone to talk to. Not about the work but about the spaces in between. So that’s what I do now. I listen. I follow up. I intervene when it seems like someone is struggling. I work behind the scenes to bring comfort.
Being remote doesn’t change the promise of my role to facilitate the smooth running of the office and look after the well being of this group. Someday soon I’ll be back to stocking the pantry shelves with cheese balls and bubbly water but for now, concentrating on the wellbeing of the people is my focus.
So, how do you manage the office when there is no “office”? Pretty much the same as always, minus the snacks.