If you're a great organiser with strong administration skills and a flair for leading and motivating teams, then a career in office management could be for you

As an office manager, you're responsible for organising all of the administrative activities that facilitate the smooth running of an office. This includes the organising of people, information and other resources. You must make sure that office equipment is maintained, relevant records are up to date and that all administration processes work effectively.

In smaller organisations, you'll carry out most of the tasks yourself, while in larger ones, you will supervise the work of a team of staff.

Although the exact nature of your work will vary depending on the organisation you work for, you'll have responsibility for ensuring that the office runs efficiently so that the organisation can fulfil its aims.

Job titles vary and alternatives may include business, administrative or operations manager.

Responsibilities

As an office manager, you'll need to:

  • use a range of office software, including email, spreadsheets and databases, to ensure the efficient running of the office
  • manage online and paper filing systems
  • develop and implement new administrative systems, such as record management
  • record office expenditure and manage the budget
  • organise the office layout and maintain supplies of stationery and equipment
  • maintain the condition of the office and arrange for necessary repairs
  • organise and chair meetings with staff - in lower paid roles this may include typing the agenda and taking minutes, but senior managers usually have an administrative assistant to do this
  • oversee the recruitment of new staff, sometimes including training and induction
  • ensure adequate staff levels to cover for absences and peaks in workload, often by using temping agencies
  • carry out staff appraisals, manage performance and discipline staff
  • delegate work to staff and manage their workload and output
  • promote staff development and training
  • implement and promote equality and diversity policy
  • write reports for senior management and deliver presentations
  • respond to customer enquiries and complaints
  • review and update health and safety policies and ensure they're observed
  • check that data protection laws are being adhered to in relation to the storage of data, and review and update policies
  • arrange regular testing for electrical equipment and safety devices
  • attend conferences and training
  • manage social media for your organisation.

Salary

  • Salaries for office managers vary depending on the type of industry, employer and level of responsibility involved. Typical starting salaries may range from £18,000 to £30,000.
  • With experience salaries can rise to between £30,000 and £50,000.

Office manager positions in areas such as the NHS and higher education will usually follow a grading structure.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll typically work a 35 hour week, although you may need to come in early or stay late during busy periods. There may be opportunities for part-time work or job-sharing.

What to expect

  • Work is office-based. In a small organisation, you may share a room with other administrative staff, or even manage an office alone. In larger organisations, you'll oversee the work of a team of staff, who may work in a number of small rooms throughout a building or in a large, open-plan office.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities throughout the UK. There may also be opportunities with smaller businesses in rural locations.
  • In most posts, smart, professional dress is expected, particularly in customer-facing roles.
  • The work can be challenging as you're often responsible for meeting targets and deadlines and for disciplining staff.
  • You may be need to travel between offices if you're working at split-site locations. You might also need to travel further afield for training and conferences or, if working for a large organisation, to other branch offices.

Qualifications

You can become an office manager with any degree subject or HND but the following subjects may be particularly helpful:

  • business administration/business management
  • computing and information technology
  • human resource management
  • management
  • public administration.

Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible if you have relevant office experience and skills. Many office managers enter at office administrator level and work their way up with experience. Some employers will ask for a management qualification at office manager level.

If you're 16 or over and not in full-time education, there are opportunities to take an apprenticeship in business and administration at intermediate, advanced and higher levels. At higher level, you could train for a role as an office manager. NVQs/SVQs are also available in business and administration.

You don't usually need a postgraduate qualification to become an office manager, but some graduates choose to do further study in a business-related field.

Skills

You will need to have:

  • excellent organisational and time management skills
  • knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) and other commonly used office packages
  • strong IT and typing skills
  • the ability to prioritise tasks and work under pressure
  • good teamworking skills and the confidence to lead and motivate a team
  • the ability to manage your own workload and supervise the work of others concurrently
  • excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills
  • attention to detail
  • flexibility and adaptability to changing workloads
  • a problem-solving approach to work
  • project management skills.

A familiarity with legislation in the areas of employment, equality and diversity and data protection is also useful.

Work experience

Competition varies between employment sectors, but office manager positions usually attract a large number of applications. Relevant office experience is vital. Opportunities are available through recruitment agencies or junior administrative posts.

It's also helpful to get experience that shows good team-working and management skills. Taking on an extracurricular project or managing a team of volunteers is a good way of developing these skills, particularly if you've not had the opportunity to apply them in a work environment.

Employers

Office managers are employed across the board in the public, private, and charity sectors; in short, by any organisation that runs an office, from small businesses to public bodies and multinational corporations.

Typical employers include:

  • NHS and private healthcare organisations
  • educational establishments, including schools and further and higher education institutions
  • local and central government bodies
  • charities and community groups
  • financial services organisations
  • legal firms
  • social work organisations
  • entertainment, creative, media and leisure industries
  • engineering firms
  • transport companies
  • retailers, wholesalers and distributers
  • manufacturers across all branches of industry
  • science organisations
  • security services
  • public utilities - gas, electricity, water and telecommunications providers.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

Training opportunities depend largely on your employer, although most employers offer at least basic training in, for example, their own databases and content management systems. Informal on-the-job training is also common.

Training is either carried out in-house (usually in larger organisations) or via external companies offering courses in areas such as:

  • managing and leading teams
  • appraisals
  • recruitment and selection
  • equality and diversity legislation
  • health and safety
  • marketing
  • stress management
  • time management
  • assertiveness.

In smaller companies, you're more likely to have to take the initiative and work out your own continuing professional development (CPD) needs. Courses are often paid for by the employer, but training budgets may be restricted.

Membership of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM) is useful and provides access to the latest news, events and discounts on training, as well as the opportunity to network with office managers and related staff.

If you don't already have an administration qualification, you may choose to study for a diploma, NVQ, HND or degree in business or administration or a related area such as HR. See the IAM website for details of IAM Certificate, Diploma and NVQ professional qualifications. In particular, the IAM Level 4 Certificate in Office and Administration Management is uniquely targeted at office managers or aspiring office managers.

There are also opportunities to study business at postgraduate level, for example by taking a Masters in business or a Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

Career prospects

The role of office manager isn't usually an entry-level position, and you'll typically have previous administrative or managerial experience, often in a related sector, before taking on the job.

Once you're in post and have some experience, you may take on extra responsibilities, such as managing more staff or taking on more senior management responsibilities.

Alternatively, you could manage a different office in the organisation, which has a larger workforce or carries more responsibility. For example, you may move from managing a small team in the finance section to managing the whole finance department.

After gaining more experience as an office manager, there may be opportunities to step up into senior management and progress further to head of department. Bottlenecks can occur for senior posts, particularly when there are several office managers within an organisation. Developing a specialist area, such as finance, human resources or strategic development, may help.