8 Ways to Structure Your Business’ Front Office

Featured image credit: musicoomph.com

Do you need to hire a receptionist for your business? If you’re asking this question, you should also ask another one: What specific role would a potential receptionist play?

You’ve already identified the need for someone at the front desk to monitor visitors. But most receptionists end up doing much more than that.

If you position the new hire to make your whole team more productive, what may have originally seemed like a ROI risk can become a huge value. However, if you try to pile the wrong kind of work on your receptionist, they’ll end up frustrated, resentful, or just unable to do their job well.

The work you give your receptionist must be compatible with their ability to welcome visitors. That means you shouldn’t give them work that requires deep focus and concentration — instead, they should be given tasks that can accommodate interruption.

Then, consider a few ways companies have combined front desk duties with other tasks to create a winning situation for everyone.

The Visitor-Focused Receptionist

Let’s start with the most obvious receptionist role: Sometimes, monitoring the front desk area and tending to the needs of visitors requires enough work to be a full-time job.

In these cases (usually with businesses that either have high traffic or a more complicated or security-heavy check-in process), it could be a mistake to saddle the receptionist with additional tasks. Better to let them focus on visitors without additional distractions.

In their spare time, if they have it, they can make an effort to initiate improvements to visitor experience, maintain the equipment or software needed to manage visitors, make the reception area more welcoming with seasonal touches, or analyze visitor reports and KPIs (made possible with quality visitor management software, of course).

However, most mid-sized or small businesses don’t have enough visitors to justify a reception-only role.

The Office Manager Receptionist

The role of office manager (sometimes called an office administrator depending on company size and employee responsibility level) is one receptionists tend to fall into naturally.

Office managers typically take responsibility for the physical maintenance of the office managing things like cleaning services, general repairs, and security. They handle common resources like conference rooms or shared equipment (such as the copier or video equipment) and make sure the whole staff has the supplies they need to do their work well.

Office managers are also typically in charge of filing systems and making sure those filing systems are secure and compliant. They may be in charge of making sure certain office procedures are followed and documented.

Office management tasks can be essential to a growing company. But they’ll get neglected if no one is put in charge. Click To Tweet

The HR-Focused Receptionist

For companies that employ more than a handful of people but not so many that they need a dedicated human resources professional, certain HR tasks can be a great fit for a front desk worker.

Your receptionist may be able to take on tasks like payroll, benefits enrollment, new hire paperwork / onboarding, tracking vacation days and sick days, reimbursing expenses, planning employee travel, and implementing staff training.

In small companies, these tasks often end up on the plate of the business owner or other business leaders, who should be spending their time on big-picture thinking and execution instead.

The Executive Assistant Receptionist

Depending on the needs of the company, the receptionist may be a great help by assisting executives personally.

In this role, a receptionist might manage executives’ schedules, screen their calls, handle their mail, make calls on their behalf, and shepherd them through their schedules as the day progresses.

Other helpful duties may include writing and disseminating memos from the executives to the rest of the staff, researching topics the executive needs to know about, and summarizing reports and data for the executives’ review.

Most of these tasks can be worked on quietly and won’t necessarily be ruined by the interruptions that come along with visitors.

The Customer Service Based Receptionist

Customer service work can be a good fit with many receptionists’ personalities, because they’re often hired in part because of their warm, supportive, and helpful dispositions.

As long as these tasks don’t keep your front desk staff on the phone for long stretches, it can be great help.

At our company (The Receptionist visitor management system), our entire staff pitches in on customer support. Most of our support requests come in via a workplace chat program, which means that a front desk worker could ideally help out with some of those requests in any period where they weren’t preoccupied with a visitor.

The Social Media Marketing Receptionist

As this James Harper column notes, many companies task their front desk staff with marketing tasks, notably social media work.

It’s reasonable for companies to try this out, considering that social media work is often considered to be “free.” If the marketing budget is tight or nonexistent, having the receptionist try out some social media marketing may seem like the only affordable solution.

However, note that there are some risks. Harper notes that by putting them in charge of marketing:

“You’re taking away from their actual job you hired them for, which – in many small businesses – a good receptionist can make or break your frontline customer service. Also, to be very direct, your front desk staff likely isn’t equipped with the correct knowledge base to properly run your social media. More often than not, you’ll end up hurting your digital brand rather than helping it.”

If your receptionist has actual marketing and social media experience, this could be a good fit. But a casual personal user might not be qualified.

The Receptionist as Morale Booster

In many offices, it’s expected that the company will acknowledge things like birthdays, special personal life events such as weddings and the birth of children, work anniversaries, and last days. Many companies also send flowers on behalf of the company for bereavement.

These types of personal touches can really boost morale, but they all take work, and in many cases the receptionist is the best person to make sure it gets done. The receptionist doesn’t only greet visitors, after all; he also greets the entire staff, and of everyone he has his finger on the pulse of a company’s personnel issues.

Other morale-boosting tasks may include acknowledging holidays with parties, treats or decorations, helping newly relocated employees get settled into the area, and pitching in wherever needed when things get hectic.

Some companies have gone as far as to refer to this role as the “office mom.” Designating these tasks to a specific person and adding them to a job description ensures that they’ll be done consistently and won’t be assumed thanklessly by the rest of the staff.

The Absent Receptionist

Finally, some companies might not need a receptionist at all.

A completely empty front desk usually invites problems for privacy and productivity. But if your office really doesn’t get many visitors, it’s possible to skip the receptionist hire completely and rely on an automated visitor management solution instead.

The Receptionist makes it easy for visitors to check themselves in on an iPad, and you can set up custom notifications for the rest of the staff when visitors arrive.

To learn more, check out our features or sign up for a free trial.

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