In the world of business, job titles can sometimes seem more like suggestions than concrete descriptions. On top of that, plenty of offices employ people whose titles and responsibilities vary in tiny, almost imperceptible ways. The most confusing one? The differences between office managers and operations managers. While they are only a few letters apart, the two titles entail completely different roles and responsibilities. Whether you’re an office manager, an operations manager, or just wondering about the distinction, read on to find out what, exactly, distinguishes the two.
In simple terms, an operations manager is the person who is focused on the big-picture goals and laying the right groundwork to accomplish them. They’re the people who are always looking ahead, analyzing the right ways to make a business more profitable and efficient. Operations managers monitor a company’s overall well-being, fixing issues or slowdowns where they may occur. Sometimes referred to as office coordinators, their specific duties vary from office to office, but there are a few key responsibilities that tend to pop up the most, including formulating operational strategy, overseeing the supply chain, improving employee performance and promoting job compliance.
They often work outside of specific teams or groups, instead focusing their efforts and time on the business operation as a whole. Both people and administrative skills are crucial for operations managers because no two days ever require quite the same expertise — some are spent resolving issues between coworkers, for example, while others are dedicated to setting tangible goals for the next year or quarter.
Office managers, meanwhile, are the people pleasers of the office environment, kind of like the glue that holds everyone together for the benefit of the entire organization. They fill each work day with activities that improve the shared environment and the general morale of their spaces. Typical duties of office managers include conducting check-ins with fellow employees, taking calls and detailed notes, overseeing the use of office supplies, managing payroll, planning events and supervising visitors. They pick up the jobs that often fall to the wayside in other departments, performing the duties of managers, HR specialists, landlords, and receptionists all at once.
Office managers work to unify and enliven the workplace, which is an incredibly important, if often overlooked, aspect of an effective business. They’re experts in organization and communication, and it’s likely that, because of their constant interactions with office dwellers, they will also end up improving office efficiency and workflow. They’re an integral part of any successful workplace, but their job title is a point of contention for some.
In some offices, there is a tendency to look down on the job title of office managers. The term brings to mind a glorified receptionist who spends all day answering phones, grabbing coffees and chatting with other employees as they walk by. This couldn’t be further from the truth for most office managers, but some of them, fed up with the negative or lowly association with the title, are choosing to distance themselves from this perception with a variety of new titles. Popular alternatives include community manager, office administrator, and executive assistant.
Each of these titles highlights different aspects of the office manager role, which can help them draw focus on the aspects of the job that they most value. “Community manager” stresses roles that improve culture, happiness, and satisfaction. “Office administrator” relies more on the business side of the job, including maintenance and supply duties. “Executive assistant” is closest to the traditional secretary title, used to spotlight tasks like taking phone calls and typing notes from meetings. It’s up to office managers themselves to pick the title that suits them best — when they find one, they can speak with their bosses about a title change.
When considering the roles of office coordinators vs. office managers, consider the semantics of those first words: Operations and office. While their titles are strikingly similar, operations managers and office managers simply do not have much overlap between their respective duties. Operations managers are supposed to look at the big picture, working each day to improve all aspects of the business to further the company’s goals. Office managers, meanwhile, are the people who pound the pavement, setting an office’s tone and making sure that team members are motivated and satisfied with their work.
The most important thing to keep in mind with both roles is that no matter their name, they are both essential to a productive, modern office. Their work is complementary, working to enhance the best parts of the workplace while simultaneously trying to minimize the worst ones. Despite the deceptively close titles, just about the only thing operations managers and office managers have in common is that they both use their time to improve the experience of working in an office.