I follow the same routine each morning when I arrive at the Ruby office. I unload my bike bag at my desk, connect my laptop to my external screen, and then head to the break room for my morning tea. My tea options are beautifully displayed (and easily accessible) via a countertop wire rack. Ruby-branded coffee mugs are stocked right above the coffee machine (handles all facing the same way). Plus, every Tuesday, there is some treat to add a spring to my step. The whole process takes me less than three minutes—which is exactly what Ruby’s Office Champions are hoping for.
Offices are comprised of hundreds of moving parts, no matter if you’re 10 employees or 100. Like a well-oiled machine, these parts must work together to keep business moving, and employees happy and focused. Even a small interruption, like a lack of paper in the copy room, can result in dramatic loses in productivity. No one takes this responsibility more seriously than Christian Cartwright and Claire La Rocca, Ruby’s two office champions. I recently interviewed Christian, who works out of the Portland office, about the importance of office champions (or managers) in creating community and fostering happiness.
What is an office champion/manager?
On a basic level, an office champion is the person who manages the office as a facility—coordinating with building management on repairs, managing installations of office equipment—essentially handling the structural part of what you need to make an office run.
On a deeper level, however, an office champion should be the touchstone of the values the company embodies—an internal customer service if you will. The way Rubys treat their clients is how I treat our employees, which reinforces that behavior for our receptionists.
Can you give me an example?
One of our receptionist managers came by and asked if we stocked cough drops in the medicine cabinet, which we didn’t at the time. One of her receptionists had a scratchy throat, so she was hoping to do something to make her feel better. I could have responded, “Oh, no cough drops. Hope she feels better!” and left it there. However, that would not be practicing Ruby’s values. Instead, I told her I would run downstairs and buy cough drops, so she could go back to work. I also let her know going forward, I would make sure cough drops were stocked for everybody. After purchasing the drops, I delivered them to the receptionist’s desk with a get well card. That’s practicing WOWism, which is exactly what we do for our clients. It creates a cascade effect that impacts how that receptionist works, how he or she feels, and it becomes a story that gets passed along.
What characteristics or personality traits should an office champion possess?
The most important is to be attentive to detail and there are two different types. First, you’re managing a group of people’s work life, so much of your focus is on making sure you’re prepared with the right infrastructure. If there’s no paper, employees can’t print things. If there’s no markers, they can’t do a presentation. Those details are very basic, but very important. This also means being an ambassador for the brand. Here at Ruby we have a specific aesthetic and way of doing things. Cleanliness is key! We have guests in all the time, so everything needs to kept at a certain standard, the goal being to impress employees and those who come to visit us.
The second type is being attentive to people’s needs. The role of office champion is a service position, so you need to know what people need even before they know it themselves. For example, you’ll see me bring water around to our receptionists because I know they talk all day. It really takes it up a notch. I mean, how many places have someone bring you something other than work to your desk?
Additionally, office champions need to be comfortable working independently and managing their time. While I have a mental checklist of my typical tasks to complete each day, I could work as much as I want to. I’ve had to learn how to manage my own time, or else I’d burn myself out.
Lastly, maintaining a positive attitude is extraordinarily important. The office champion is a high contact position, seen more than any other team member. If you’re having a bad day, that negative attitude will permeate through the office.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day is comprised of many little, teeny touch points that individually are truly mundane, but in the aggregate are critical.
- Arrive between 7:30-8:30 am and log into my computer.
- Head to the break room. Make sure everything is tidy and we have enough basic stuff (e.g. tea, sugar, honey, coffee stirrers, etc).
- Go through and check all the conference rooms to be sure they’re stocked for the day’s meetings—markers, pens, paper.
- Check business center, refill items from my overstock, and make note of anything that needs to be ordered.
- Check fitness room to make sure it has water and cups.
- Quick trip to stock room to make sure there aren’t any hidden disasters.
- Come through and check the kitchen again. An hour has gone by since I started my round, so I like to make sure everything looks alright.
- Pop over to my boss’ desk and ask her if she needs anything, followed by a run down to the store to buy odds and ends.
What sort of tools are essential to your role?
Well, you need to have actual tools—a hammer, screwdriver, things of that nature. More importantly, you need to have savvy regarding shopping. Offices consume lots of stuff and being able to comparison shop will save your business money.
What does success look like for you?
Success is hearing about an issue, addressing it upfront and hopefully not hearing anything carried over to the next day. If I’m able to take care of all the people related needs over the course of one day, then I feel like I’ve done a really good job.
What would you say is the biggest difference between managing a 10 person office versus Ruby’s 200+?
I don’t believe the office champion role would be easier with less people, just smaller units of everything I’ve described. At a smaller company, however, I imagine that person wouldn’t just be running the office, but have different tiers of duties. The larger the company, the more pure the office champion becomes, to what I think of as the definition of an office manager.
What should a company look for when hiring an office champion?
I think you need someone who is aware of the impact the role is capable of making, and interested in making the biggest impact they can. This person should think in terms of making people feel acknowledged and special. This would come across as someone who is empathetic, attentive, and willing to be as helpful as possible—someone that exudes a desire to help and serve.
Any parting thoughts?
I’ve worked at a lot of places and had a rather wide variety of jobs. This is the first time in all of my years of working I can say I now understand what people meant when they said “I love my job and wake up every morning excited to go to work.”
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