Having an inviting office is key for any assistant. It helps to act as a social lubricant and make others feel welcome. Here are 5 tips you may find useful.
1) Have extra supplies on your desk - For any office I inhabit, my desk has two sets of supplies laid out on my desk. On the outer edges of my desk, I place extra pens, pencils, highlighters, ruler, scissors, tape, tissue, stapler, Post-it notes, staple remover, lotion, hand sanitizer, and an extra phone if possible. The reason why I do this because there’s always that office guest or executive that wants to borrow my stuff and they either run off with it or have to come around to my side of the desk where important documents may lie or where they can see my computer screen. They also want to make a quick phone call and if they were to use my phone I can’t grab other lines if they were to ring. Having the extra set of supplies for them makes it so much easier for them to do any final stapling or leaving notes for my executive. They are always so happy to have their own section of supplies and an area of my desk to do what they need to without interrupting me to ask for stuff.
2) Have personal photos - I always place 7-10 small photo frames in a very visible, front area part of my office or desk. The photos are me with friends, families, or something that highlights my personal life. A lot of the times, people passing my office will see the photos and come over to look at them and start asking questions. Sometimes they are total strangers visiting our offices or co-workers I barely work with. I find it’s a good ice breaker and a way for people to get to know me or me to get to know them, especially if they are waiting for my boss to wrap up a meeting and are bored.
3) Have a candy dish on your desk - Having a candy dish on your desk is key, especially putting it in a spot where people will be forced to say quick hello when they take a piece of candy. The trick is to encourage people to take as much as they want and to come back and visit. LOL People inevitably ask if they can have a piece and I always reply that it’s there for them! I make it a point to never buy the same treat once I run out. Sometimes I even take suggestions and I really try to vary the treats. I’ll go from chocolate to mints to gummies, etc. I make sure whatever they take is small, bite size, and can be easily eaten. Lollipops aren’t good because they take too long to eat. I also try to buy things that are atypical. Sometimes I bring in Japanese candy that everyone would like - for example, candy that tastes like Coke or Sprite. Free candy is just another way to spark conversation and make people feel cared for.
4) Have a community decoration wall or door - I have a large bulletin board on my desk that has my favorite quotes and cute animals plastered on there. If you don’t have wall space, perhaps your office door can work too. The idea is to allow people to contribute their favorite quote or pet to your wall. I think this is something anyone can relate to or can comment on. People do actually bring photos in or their favorite quote. Later on, when they come back they are so pleased to see that I did put up their contribution. I once had a co-worker I didn’t know come to read my wall. She loved one quote so much because her best friend just went through a terrible break up. So, I did the only thing I could that felt right - I gave her the quote to give to her friend. My co-worker was so touched and so grateful beyond what I had expected. I assured her it would be totally fine, I could just print another one out and replace it. It was nice to make her day and hopefully her friend’s too. The wall then becomes a focal point in the office. People gather around it and point out their contribution or hear about another executive’s fave quote or pet. It gives a lot of insight into your department. Others can feel they though co-workers a lot better because it is now a public space to share.
5) Use your office space to give out freebies - If you’re an assistant, it’s very likely that you will have to set up a lunch and there is food left over from it. Instead of taking it into the kitchen, take the 10 minutes to bring the food to your desk area and personally call or email people to come get the freebies. The point here is to call people that you want to express gratitude to or you want to forge a good relationship with - other assistants, security guards, mailroom staff, janitorial crew, etc. By calling people specifically, you are saying I thought of you, I thought you might like this surprise treat, only those I select are getting the freebies. This translates to you are important, I value you, thank you for everything. By asking people to come to your desk you can make sure that they realize they isn’t enough food to go around to everyone and it’s a chance for you to say a quick hello as they pick out food they want. It’s always nice to make people feel special! Sometimes if I can, I will personally make a plate of food and walk it out to the security guards since I know they can’t leave their post. I first will call them though and tell them all the yummy food I have and get their requests on which items they want.
The bottom line is, being an assistant is very much a customer service role. Little tweaks here and there can make a big difference for guests and colleagues!