Office procedures are the accepted standard for doing business within a specific workplace. Such standards may vary depending on the industry, workload, geographic location, professionalism of the office or size of the company. For instance, office procedures in a medical, dental or legal practice will be much different than those in a construction, retail or import business. However, there are some "norms" for office procedures across industries.
All offices require professional and courteous telephone manners. Answer the phone promptly, speak clearly and politely, and never leave a caller on hold more than a few seconds without returning to the call—even if all that is said is, "I'm still working on your request."
Take messages for workers who are out of the office or unavailable. Clearly record the name, date, time and phone number of the caller, along with the purpose for the call, if given. When a voicemail system is in place, ask the caller if she would like to leave a voicemail, and then transfer her to the voicemail system. It's impolite to transfer a call without informing the caller in advance of the transfer.
The specifics for records management vary greatly from office to office, but the details of all business operations must be maintained in an orderly, professional manner. Keep copies of all receipts, invoices, account statements, work orders, proposals, job estimates, correspondence, reports and any other documents produced by the company.
Create files for each vendor, customer account, sale or project, based on the company's specifications. Clearly label all folders, and file them in an easily accessible location where they can be quickly retrieved when needed. These are requirements for proper management of any business, regardless of industry.
Mail Handling and Distribution
Managing incoming and outgoing mail will vary by office, as well, but treat all mail as important correspondence and handle it promptly, especially correspondence with clients and customers.
Open and route mail to the appropriate department or employee, depending on specific company procedures. Never open mail stamped "personal." If incoming mail is to be opened prior to distribution, paperclip the envelope to the back of the correspondence in case an address or sender information is needed.
Weigh outgoing mail, if necessary, and affix the proper amount of postage to the upper right corner. If mail is picked up by a mail carrier, place it in the proper outgoing location for pick-up. If it is taken to the local Post Office, place all letters in a box for easy transport. Tape all packages securely and clearly label them for proper delivery.
Computers and Technology
Ensuring computer data is properly protected is important in today's office that relies heavily on such information. Practice basic safety procedures to safeguard computer files and hardware.
To protect documents and software, create a daily backup of all computer files on an Internet site that offers such a service, or on a separate flash drive or Zip disk. Be cautious when downloading files and software from the Internet. Keep a virus protection programming running whenever a computer is turned on, and keep the virus database up-to-date since new threats arise continually.
Protect hardware with a strong and reliable surge protector. Turn computers off at night when no one is using them, and unplug any electronics during heavy lightning storms.
Darlene 'Dee' Bishop is a professional with over 30 years experience writing and editing. Her education is in business administration from the University of Tennessee. Her writing has been published in Woman's Day, Publish and Business Today as well as hundreds of places online.