From time to time, workers may need to refresh their memories on how to perform certain tasks. Likewise, new employees to an organization will want to learn the ropes as quickly as possible without having to keep interrupting supervisors or coworkers with countless questions. A manual of office procedures and practices accomplishes both of these objectives while providing written protocols and expectations of performance that can be subsequently referenced in employee appraisals and documentation for disciplinary actions.

Determine the Manual's Purpose

Identify the purpose and scope of the office procedures manual you want to develop. The content of office manuals generally falls into two categories:

  1. How to interact with people
  2. How to perform specific tasks including the operation of equipment necessary to create, manage and deliver goods and services. 

Office manuals also often include organizational charts, resource directories and sample forms. The complexity of an office manual is based on who the target users will be. If, for example, the content relates to customer relations and how to process complaints, it wouldn't make sense to include chapters on how a forklift operates or how to handle hazardous materials.

Select the Manual's Format

Decide on the format presentation that best fits your company's needs. While office manuals are typically thought of as guidelines printed on paper and placed in three-ring binders with subject divider tabs, technology has opened the door to more exciting — as well as more economical — methods of delivering information.

Consider, for instance, whether an online procedures manual would make it easier and faster for employees to access information by entering keywords. An electronic format might also facilitate the process of updating and revising content as well as incorporating audio content and video demonstrations to enhance learning.

Determine Procedures to Cover

Make a list of all the chapter topics you want your manual to address. If, for example, you decide to write guidelines on how to operate various pieces of office equipment, you would identify individual sections for computers, telephone systems, photocopy machines, recording systems, postage meters and collating devices. Decide whether you are going to write all of the content yourself or assign the first draft of each section to individuals who are well-versed in the subject matter.

Organize Your Office Procedures Manual

Organize procedural steps from the most simple concepts to those that are more complicated. Consider whether the inclusion of photographs, drawings, tables or other graphics will supplement the user's understanding of the material. Provide a glossary of acronyms and task-specific terminology. Where practical, provide examples of how to fill out requisition orders, travel expense claims, vacation requests, time sheets, customer receipts and other forms used by the company.

You can take a look at office manual examples online for some ideas on organizing your content if you feel stuck. You might also find an office procedure manual template helpful.

Complete the Manual

Establish a time frame for completing each section of the new office procedures manual. If necessary, schedule a block of time each day for researching, writing, reviewing and assembling content.

Have the Manual Reviewed

Have the content reviewed by HR personnel and legal staff prior to dissemination to ensure that its language is clear, uncluttered and consistent with state and federal mandates and regulations. Provide each recipient of the manual with a sign-off sheet indicating their agreement to read the material and to abide by its directives.

An office manual should always be considered a work in progress and, thus, be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the content is an accurate reflection of the procedures being followed and the equipment being used to perform those tasks.