Holding Down the Fort..

Ever been working in your office when most of the staff is off site at an annual meeting or taken off for the last week of December? Sounds like a dream, right? No one to watch over you and maybe you take a few extra minutes on your lunch break.

What’s really important though.. is how you prepare before everyone takes off. Being prepared and anticipating that one client, that one issue, that one huge challenge is so vital..not just for your sanity’s sake.. but for the good of your firm.

Here are some of the practices- I have tried to put in place over my working career- to help me to continue being a truly reliable resource/point of contact at the office.

1. Be sure to have the name and number of the building’s facility manager on your cell phone and accessible by your desk.. not just on your computer. Inevitably.. this will be the time something in the office or suite will a) leak b) lose power c) decide to have small bugs visit .. etc.. The office manager may or may not be around. Are you going to wait? If management is six states away.. time to take the lead on resolving this issue to the best of your ability. Important note! Communicate by email and voicemail to your management team the steps you are taking AND WHY…. even if you have to text them on their phone.

2. Review the staff/office calendar for any upcoming meetings before the management team departs. Try to anticipate any special needs or orders that need to be resolved ahead of time– because once they return, they will be reading through emails and responding to other issues that were waiting while they were gone. Do you need to order coffee? Paper? Toner? Did you blow through all the toner getting ready for this meeting? Get it replenished before they return.

3. Be sure to have the hotel name and direct phone number. Make certain you have the correct shipping address and procedure so if you have to overnight something.. it will actually get to your supervisor without getting lost in the meetings boxes at the loading dock.
When labeling the box and the form be sure to put the address like this:

Mr. Joe Sample (GUEST arriving 10/18/09)

so that it is obvious! and include the cell phone number for you and your supervisor on the label for the shipping firm. So many folks leave the numbers off.. and you severely diminish the chances of delivery if there are any problems.

4. How does your boss/supervisor want “emergency” callers handled? Confirm this.. because as we all know .. most folks that are calling because something has to be answered immediately.. may not really need you to interrupt your boss at the awards ceremony. Ask your supervisor, ” Are there any callers or issues I need to know about and require me to track you down immediately?” My supervisors prefer that I get the person’s information and promise to get back to them or let them know that a staff member will get back to them. Then it is MY responsibility to get the message to the staff. Let my supervisor make the call on how urgent it is.. instead of me trying to guess it for myself.

My suggestion is really to be used at the discretion of the supervisor.. check first. The first day or two that the bosses are back at the office- block off the morning until lunch: This allows them to return calls and answer emails at a decent pace. Let them catch their breath and ease back into the office. If you have ever worked at an annual meeting.. you know .. you never really stop and rest…it is go, go, go. Ask if your supervisors would like you to hold their calls. Don’t just make that decision on your own.

I enjoy the quiet of the office when staff are offsite. It gives me a chance to organize, label and update manuals… and even enjoy my morning coffee at my desk!

PS. One last thought: Get the name, location, hours and phone number along with email address of the nearest FedEx/Kinkos to the annual meeting location. Keep it handy in your contacts or in your desk manual. Using the hotel business center is NOT budget friendly. Most items can be emailed directly to the FedEx/Kinkos or other business copy center and picked up easily as they tend to be located near hotels and convention facilities. I have used this option twice for last minute documents.. and it is a life-saver!

Author: KMK Foley

Storyteller. Wicked sense of humor. Tenacious learner, Coffee Lover, especially Dunkin' Donuts.