Office procedures are basis rules by which an office conducts their internal business.
- office hours
- time off
- use of company equipment
- use of company brand
These procedures are referred to as; office procedures, office manual, standard office procedures, company policy, etc. These procedures are a set of rules for effective governance of an office. Procedures are added to, rewritten and administered may the office management.
In small business firms especially architectural firms basic office procedures are often not outlined clearly for the team members. Because the basics in office operation are not outlined in writing unwanted disturbances in inefficiencies occur.
Before starting my own firm in architecture, I worked in a medium sized firm of over 40 people. They employed a procedures manual called Standard Office Procedures (SOP). Each time there was some crisis in the office something like a missed communication, a new SOP was added to the manual. This was a hit and miss process – sometimes the item was added and sometimes not. Even if it was added, it was seldom followed and there was no enforcement. It was considered by many in the office, a joke. When anyone mentioned SOP, everyone rolled their eyes.
In small companies the following can become chronic problems:
- clarity of office hours eg, late for work
- inconsistencies about time off
- employees unsure of company policy on holidays
- employees interruption of managers re: simple office policy
- inconsistent answers to basic questions
Lack of Procedures
Any company with one or more employees will benefit from a set of clear company policies outlined in a procedures manual. The manual is a set of rules outlining the specific relationship between the employer and the employee. If the procedures are not in place there could be many negative impacts resulting in:
- lost time due to lack of clarity
- confusion on knowing what to do
- frustration because of lack of clarity
- lowering of company morale
- weakened corporate culture
- inconsistency on management
In large companies procedures are a must and a great deal of time and effort is made to the development and maintenance of standard procedures. Many large companies are successful due to this commitment to standard procedures.
Yet because it takes substantial time and effort in small firms maintaining office procedures becomes a lower priority and are often skipped completely. Many small firms that I know have no office procedures, or outdated procedures and infrequently enforced procedures.
As an architect, when I began my own firm, I steered away from any form of office procedures. It was not ‘cool’ to run a creative architectural practice that way. If there were any procedures they were very loose and verbal. In discussions with my colleagues in architecture very few of them had any form of written procedures governing their offices.
This lack of discipline and procedures continued in my office for over 20 years. That, along with other poor business practices prevented me from achieving the kind of success that I had hoped for.
After 20 years, I decided to change my approach to business. I began by realizing my business methods were not leading to success. I engaged a business mentor. The first set of questions he asked me:
- do you have a standard office procedures handbook?
- do your employees take it seriously?
- do they have input into the procedures?
- are the procedures enforced?
- are the procedures part of the company ?
My response to each question was no, no, no…… My first issue was to overcome the stigma of ‘standard office procedures’. Architects don’t do that sort of thing; architects don’t need SOP’s!
Yet my mentor insisted that I should at least develop some simple procedures first. Later on once the culture of procedures is established, additional ones could be added. He said developing the written procedures is one thing, but they must be adhered to or they will have little impact.
So after setting up a basic set of procedures and introducing them to my reluctant team they began to accept the new method of maintaining consistent office order. Before long, they began to realize the benefits and so did I. Simple things made the office more comfortable like:
- clearly outlining office hours
- identifying lunch and coffee time
- how to earn holidays and holiday schedule
- time off for illness or other unforeseen
Impact of Standard Procedures
Once these procedures began to take effect, they had a marked effect on the day-to-day running of the office. They had a very positive impact of the company culture. We began to add new procedures with the input of all team members. The impact of these new procedures were positive:
- job satisfaction
- self motivation
- less time wasted by not know what to do
- efficiency on completing the work
- more relaxed environment
The office procedures change the culture of boss/employee – a hierarchical system to a system where colleagues work in alignment all following the rules achieving success.
To any existing small firm experiencing lack of success, I would recommend looking at your business practices and developing a standard office practice - a living manual - to create a guide line for all team members to play by the same clearly stated rules – office procedures.
For anyone contemplating starting a new practice – be sure to start with a standard office procedure. You will then be able to design the company and develop the environment in which you would want to work.