Office managers are responsible for organising all of the administrative activities that facilitate the smooth running of an office.
They must make sure that office equipment is maintained, relevant records are up to date and that all administration processes work effectively.
In some organisations the office manager may carry out most of the tasks themselves, while in others they will supervise the work of a team of staff.
Although the work of an office manager differs greatly across organisations, they all have the responsibility for ensuring that their office runs efficiently. Job titles vary and office managers typically enter at office administrator level and work their way up with experience.
The role varies according to the type of employer, the size of the organisation and the management structure, but activities typically include:
- using a range of office software, including email, spreadsheets and databases;
- managing filing systems;
- developing and implementing new administrative systems, such as record management;
- recording office expenditure and managing the budget;
- organising the office layout and maintaining supplies of stationery and equipment;
- maintaining the condition of the office and arranging for necessary repairs;
- organising and chairing 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;
- overseeing the recruitment of new staff, sometimes including training and induction;
- ensuring adequate staff levels to cover for absences and peaks in workload, often by using temping agencies;
- carrying out staff appraisals, managing performance and disciplining staff;
- delegating work to staff and managing their workload and output;
- promoting staff development and training;
- implementing and promoting equality and diversity policy;
- writing reports for senior management and delivering presentations;
- responding to customer enquiries and complaints;
- reviewing and updating health and safety policies and ensuring they are observed;
- arranging regular testing for electrical equipment and safety devices;
- attending conferences and training;
- depending on the organisation, duties of the role may extend to the management of social media.
- Salaries for office managers vary depending on the employer and level of responsibility involved. Typical starting salaries may range from £18,000 to £30,000.
- With experience salaries can rise to £30,000 to £50,000.
The type of industry you are employed in may affect the salary offered.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, although office managers are often expected to come in early and work late during busy periods.
Although most office manager positions are offered as full-time posts, part-time work is sometimes available. Some organisations offer job-sharing.
What to expect
- Work is office-based. In a small organisation, the office manager may share a room with other administrative staff, or even manage an office alone. In bigger organisations, the office manager oversees the work of a large body of staff, who may work in a number of small rooms throughout a building or in vast, open-plan offices.
- There are few opportunities for self-employment, although starting your own business often requires taking on many of the functions of an office manager.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK. There are more jobs in towns and cities, although office managers are also needed in smaller businesses in rural locations.
- In most posts, smart, professional dress is expected, particularly in customer-facing roles.
- The work may be stressful, since an office manager is often responsible for meeting targets and deadlines and for disciplining staff.
- Some travel during the day may be necessary, particularly in split-site locations.
- Travel to other parts of the UK for training and conferences and, in large organisations, to other branch offices, may be required, sometimes involving overnight absence from home.
- Overseas travel is rarely needed.
You can become an office manager with any degree or HND but the following subjects may be particularly helpful:
- business administration/business management;
- computing and information technology;
- human resource management;
- public administration.
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible for those who have relevant work experience and skills.
Experience is highly valued in office management positions and so some employers do not ask for a degree, so that experienced non-graduates can also apply.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not necessary, but may be considered desirable by some employers, particularly in a business-related field.
You will need to show evidence of the following skills and personal qualities:
- excellent organisational and time management skills;
- good IT skills, including knowledge of a range of software packages;
- the capacity to prioritise tasks and work under pressure;
- ability to liaise well with others and delegate tasks;
- strong oral and written communication skills;
- ability to work on your own initiative;
- attention to detail;
- flexibility and adaptability to changing workloads;
- problem-solving skills and project management ability.
It is helpful to have 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 acquiring these skills, particularly if you have not had the opportunity to apply them in a work environment.
A familiarity with legislation in the areas of employment, equality and diversity and data protection can also be useful.
Experience of working in an office is essential, particularly in a related industry. Graduates can gain experience through recruitment agencies or junior administrative posts.
Competition varies between employment sectors, but office manager positions usually attract a large number of applications. Relevant office experience, particularly with the same organisation, can dramatically improve your chances.
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:
- Local Government Jobs
- Secretarial Jobs Board
- Simply Office Jobs
- National and local press.
- Recruitment agencies commonly handle jobs in office management.
Training opportunities depend on the employer and the nature of the post, although most employers offer at least basic training.
Large organisations often provide training in-house, while smaller organisations rely more on regional and national training organisations. Informal on-the-job training is also common.
The type of training provided varies depending on the nature of the post and what is required but topics may cover:
- IT software including Access and Excel;
- staff management and appraisals;
- recruitment and selection;
- equality and diversity legislation;
- health and safety;
- stress management;
- time management;
Office managers who take on substantial extra duties, such as managing the office finances or personnel policies, may need to study for a diploma, NVQ, HND or degree in the relevant subject area.
In smaller companies, training courses are usually taken on your own initiative, but are often paid for by the employer. Training budgets may be restricted so it is likely that office managers will do much of their training informally and on the job.
An office manager role is not usually an entry-level position, and you will be expected to have gained previous administrative or managerial experience, preferably in a related sector.
Once in the post, career development may take a variety of routes. It may involve taking on extra responsibilities, such as managing more staff or taking on some 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 extensive experience as an office manager, career development is likely to involve a step up into senior management and it may be possible to later progress to head of department.
The exact stages of career development are often dependent on the organisation and employment sector you work for, but most organisations encourage office managers to take on extra responsibility. This may be in areas such as finance, human resources and strategic development.
Bottlenecks can occur for senior posts, particularly when there are several office managers within an organisation. Developing a specialist area may help if it is relevant to the post.