We have long sung the praises of front desk staff and administrators, whose responsibilities these days often go well beyond traditional office tasks like filing, copying, and routing phone calls. In addition to those duties, many of today’s front office staff have been taking on leadership roles in brand advocacy, physical security, and office emergency response.
And in the era of COVID-19, many receptionists have added even more important responsibilities to their job descriptions, including sanitization and symptom screening.
However, in light of the big changes that have come along with the pandemic, some office leaders are considering drastic changes to the way their office runs that affect administrators’ roles. For example, in a post-pandemic world, more managers are considering whether or not they need a receptionist in the office lobby at all.
Here are some of the top ways we believe the pandemic has changed or will change the role of administrative assistants as we move into the new year and the future.
New Duties for Visitor Management
The offices that did welcome plenty of visitors before the pandemic may have seen a drastic change in their daily responsibilities as visitors started to stay home.
However, once in-person visits began to resume again, receptionists had to embrace a whole new host of responsibilities. New visitor management tasks during the pandemic may have included the following:
- Screening visitors for coronavirus symptoms by asking them if they’d exhibited any symptoms or had traveled to any hotspots recently, and sometimes even taking their temperature
- Carrying out disease prevention initiatives, such as distributing masks to visitors, making sure visitors all agree to a policy that dictates social distancing, and modifying the lobby to keep visitors far enough apart while they’re waiting
- Sanitizing shared surfaces in the lobby and making sure hand sanitizer is on hand and used regularly
- Keeping records of compliance with local pandemic-related health regulations by, for example, tracking each visitor to keep a record of how many people are in the workplace at any given time
- Keeping records of when employees and visitors came and left the workplace each day in case the data was needed for contract tracing purposes later
As we eventually move out of emergency status in the coronavirus pandemic, receptionists may no longer have to screen symptoms at the door or take temperatures.
But it’s a good idea to write those procedures down and add them to your handbooks so you can adopt them again more easily the next time contagious disease spreads in your community. The threat may not have to be as deadly for those tactics to still effectively protect your employees from illness.
Other new tasks, such as getting into a routine of sanitizing shared surfaces and sign-in equipment and keeping better visitor records, can continue to be beneficial at any time, pandemic or not. Employees getting sick with more common viruses, such as a cold or flu, can still take a huge toll on your team’s ability to stay productive and meet its goals.
Plus, better visitor records have benefits for safety, administrative, and even legal purposes beyond the pandemic. When you can know who is in your building at any moment and have a better idea of how many people are generally on site (and for what reasons), you can make better plans for what resources your office needs to accommodate both employees and visitors.
For example, you can use visitor frequency data to plan front desk staffing and lobby space. And tracing visits may also eventually serve as evidence against fraudulent legal claims against your organization.
New Duties for Contingency Planning
Emergency preparedness is an area that’s often neglected at small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be.
We’ve long said that receptionists, in particular, should play a crucial role in managing emergency evacuations. They have the best records of who’s in the building at any given point. They can make sure that everyone makes it out safely (hopefully with the help of a real-time visitor list that’s accessible from any internet-connected device, which is built into The Receptionist visitor management system).
Beyond scheduling and managing standard fire and evacuation drills, the pandemic has made clear that it benefits businesses of all sizes to plan for other emergencies — not just life-threatening ones.
Businesses need plans for how to keep things running when critical infrastructure fails, such as when power is lost. They also need to have a plan to respond to interruptions of the supply chain that interrupt production. And, of course, they need to have a plan for when it’s not safe for employees to come to work in-person — something that many offices experienced firsthand.
With plans, businesses can pivot more quickly and avoid losing competitive advantage when their circumstances change.
In a post-pandemic world, some offices may find that administrators are the best candidates to step into the role of emergency planning more permanently. Office administrators are often the ones with the best handle on office supplies, for one thing, so they can make sure that employees have access to emergency supplies (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, flashlights, etc.) when they’re needed. Because they’re handling emergency planning (such as evacuations) and recordkeeping, it makes sense to give them more responsibility for all emergency planning.
- How to Build an Office Emergency Kit
- How to Develop a Crisis Communications Plan for Your Office
- Are Your Workplace Safety Drills Effective?
New Office Locations
The pandemic has revealed downsides to having certain employees personally greet everyone who comes into the workspace.
Germs can potentially spread from one employee to everyone who comes in, especially if that person is working in a small, enclosed lobby area that everyone must pass through.
Although there are benefits to personally greeting visitors (better security is a big one, plus the personal touch can feel friendlier to visitors), many smaller businesses may find that it’s better to give administrative assistants their own offices away from the lobby.
In fact, it may be the perfect time to consider office design changes as many offices are making their remote work policies more permanent and changing the nature of their offices to accommodate that.
Removing the front desk from the lobby in many offices can provide more seating space for people who need to wait for an appointment, which can fulfil social distancing requirements in the short-term and provide more seating capacity (or just more comfort) in the long-term.
Visitors can check in remotely using a visitor check-in app like The Receptionist for iPad. The Receptionist app can contact the appropriate employee as soon as a visitor checks in.
Sitting away from the front desk can be beneficial for administrators, too. They will be able to concentrate on their other work more easily if they’re not interrupted each time the front door opens.
Looking to the Future
The pandemic has been extremely difficult for many businesses and many of your employees’ families.
But it’s possible to embrace the positive in all the ways we’ve had to adapt to the pandemic.It’s possible to embrace the positive in all the ways we’ve had to adapt to the pandemic. Click To Tweet
The behavioral and structural changes we’ve embraced in recent months aren’t likely to just completely disappear once we’re finally considered to be out of the woods. But that’s OK because, as we mentioned, many pandemic-related changes may keep our employees safer and healthier year-round, even when the threat isn’t so severe.
Post-pandemic, your receptionist or administrative assistant may have new skills and knowledge that can benefit their careers and your office well into the future.
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