How to Keep Office Operations Running Smoothly - Tools and Methods

Offices are complex ecosystems with potentially hundreds of moving parts, dependencies, and resources to manage. By reviewing your office operation, you can continually tweak your tools and methods to find what's most effective and efficient for your business.

Apr 22, 2022

Offices are complex ecosystems with potentially hundreds of moving parts, dependencies, and resources to manage. Keeping on top of all the daily, weekly, and monthly activities that support office functioning can often be challenging. If repetitive but essential tasks are forgotten, it can have a knock-on effect on other functions, and before you know it, you're battling minor problems instead of focusing on your business goals.

However, there are ways to ensure everything is kept on track. It's all about deploying the right tools and methods in the right place. With this in mind, let's look at the tools and techniques you can implement to strengthen your office operations.

Task Management Workflow Systems

Task management workflow systems ensure that different tasks across departments are performed promptly and effectively. They rely heavily on automation, ensuring that critical tasks aren't left to memory but rather are triggered as and when needed (time-based or event-based)

A typical workflow system will have three essential components:

  • Predefined Steps: The framework of tasks clarifies what happens at each workflow stage. Tasks can either be manual or automated.

  • Stakeholders: The people responsible for carrying out the tasks (assignees).

  • Conditions: These are the rules of the workflow. They define when a step has been completed and what should happen next.

Task management workflow systems offer many benefits, including reducing errors and redundancy, increased transparency, and enhanced productivity.

Meeting Agenda Templates

Whether we're talking about recurring meetings or one-off meetings, ensuring that tasks are carried out following the meeting is paramount. This means that meetings should always have a defined structure and expected outcome. For example, you could create an agenda before the meeting and list tasks with timelines and people responsible for carrying out those tasks.

One of the best ways to do this is with meeting agenda templates. Templates ensure that you don't forget to include any critical information about the meeting, and they can be tailored to specific types of meetings. For example, you might use a payroll template for your monthly payroll meeting or a business plan template for your monthly review of the business plan.

Kanban Boards

Although Kanban boards are most commonly used in projects or manufacturing, they can also manage weekly, monthly, or annual tasks in the office. As a result, they allow maximum visibility into your office operations and promote collaboration and accountability. And with a Kanban board, you always know exactly what stage of completeness a task is in.

Make To-Do Lists

To-do lists are an excellent way to prioritize tasks, add necessary structure to the office, and make repetitive tasks more manageable (they never creep up on you). To-do lists have also been shown to improve memory. Essentially, by plotting recurring tasks on a to-do list or seeing them appear regularly, you're more likely to remember them and take action ahead of time.

Ideally, you should have different to-do lists for different office functions (forecasting items shouldn't be on the same list as restocking office supplies, for example). Other good to-do list etiquette includes:

  • Assigning due dates.

  • Revising your to-do list regularly.

  • Keeping it task-specific rather than goal-based.

Utilize Scheduling and Reminders

It's always a good idea to give people as much notice as possible about upcoming tasks, whether weekly, monthly, or annual. This means creating a consistent (where possible) schedule involving calendar invites, meeting agendas, and reminders. Ideally, employees should always receive a meeting, task, or appointment reminder. And crucially, this reminder needs to be timed so that employees have a chance to act on it. For example, if you send a reminder for a complicated task only 10 minutes before its due, you're unlikely to get good results (the employee won't have the time).

Reminders are critical in reducing no-shows. They make meetings more productive and allow everyone to plan ahead.

Review Your Office Operations

Sometimes we follow all the best advice and still find that office tasks happen later than they should, are forgotten entirely, or are conducted ineffectively. Sometimes this is less to do with your tools and more to do with how people use them. And this is why reviewing your office operation tools, and methods are so critical. For example, are your meetings too long and some people struggle to find the time to attend? Is everyone clear on what's expected of them? Do people feel comfortable coming to you with questions when they're unsure how to proceed?

By reviewing your office operation, you can continually tweak your tools and methods to find what's most effective and efficient for your business.

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