After narrowly missing out on the top spot at the 2019 PA of the Year Awards, Sarah Kingdom, Office Manager and EA at ghd, was revealed to be the winner of last year’s Office Manager of the Year Award.
Our judges were especially impressed with the scope of Sarah’s role, which includes office support for 3 locations as well as EA duties for two Executives. We caught up with Sarah to find out more about her busy role and her experience of the PA of the Year Awards.
Hi, Sarah. How did you become an Office Manager?
“Like most, it was a career I fell into rather than following a plan. I came out of university during the financial crisis and there was stiff competition for work. I had a natural inclination for organisation and administration, so it made sense to apply to roles that listed these as key skills. I then found I had a real passion for it and continued along that career path.”
What can you tell us about your current role at ghd?
“My current role at ghd is very fast paced and no two days in the week are the same. Some days I will be more focused on the EA side of my role, and other days a requirement for facilities or health and safety comes up at short notice that needs actioning (particularly during the pandemic). This not only keeps me on my toes, but it means that I am constantly learning and adding to my knowledge.”
What do you love about being an Office Manager?
“Job satisfaction for me is knowing that I have made someone else’s life easier or that I have removed a stress from someone else. Office Management means that you get to assist and support colleagues at all levels of the business – you get highly skilled at dealing with many different types of people – and I find that enjoyable.”
You were nominated for the PA of the Year Awards by your manager Kate Burn, who said that you are an “absolute pleasure to work with” and can “always be relied on.” How does it feel to receive such high praise and have your efforts recognised in this way?
“Kate and I have worked more closely together during the pandemic, which has involved muddling through the unknown with long hours and lots of pressure to get things right first time. For both of us, there have been times where things have been especially stressful, but we have always been able to come at it with a smile (or some well timed sarcasm!) I am very flattered to receive such praise as it has been a challenging time for us both – I am glad that I have been a good support and asset for her.”
Kate also mentions that this year you picked up the role of COVID Response Team Coordinator. Can you talk us through what that involves?
“This involved taking the lead on co-ordinating with our H&S Consultancy to provide Risk Assessments for all our sites so that we are all doing the best we can to keep each other safe. It involved ordering supplies of PPE and anti-viral wipes / gels and ensuring our other Office Managers were briefed on what was expected and required of them for each of the sites.”
“I also led ‘Return to Work’ training so all staff knew what to expect at the offices and what was expected of them. We also needed to ensure people were safe at home – so I led the exercise of getting staff to complete at-home DSE assessments and processed any requests for equipment alongside our IT Team. ghd were fantastic in wanting to give people ‘moral boosters’, so I was often involved in co-ordinating gifts / incentives to be delivered to people’s homes.”
“My personal favourite was suggesting that in the Return to Office kit, we provide a personalised travel mug so that staff could differentiate between coffee mugs and also reduce waste (and expense) from take-away coffees at shops.”
Not only are you an Office Manager for ghd’s London office, but you also support the Cambridge and Leeds offices as well as taking on EA duties for two Executives. What’s your secret to juggling competing priorities?
“Take one task and one day at a time. It is easy to look at your inbox panic-stricken and think ‘where do I start?!’ but if you take one thing at a time, you will be surprised how quickly you get through things. Anything you don’t get through in one day, add to the to-do list for the next day and make an order of priority.”
Having made it through as a finalist in 2019, you are in the unique position of having experienced the PA of the Year Awards in two very different ways. What did you think of this year’s virtual ceremony?
“I enjoyed the ceremony this year! I think it flowed very well and we were all made to feel just as special as last year with a little gift hamper. It was incredible to have an award ceremony at all with the current climate and SecsintheCity made the best of the situation. Couldn’t fault it.”
How does it feel to be the winner of the Office Manager of Year Award?
“Once I got over the shock, it feels incredible.”
How did your colleagues and boss react when they found out you won?
“Everyone was very happy for me and supportive. I’ve been inundated with messages of praise and pride!”
Do you have any good stories from your time as an Office Manager?
“Too many to count! Last year, Kate and I managed to catch a mouse that had made a home in the London office. It was co-ordinated teamwork the likes of which have never been seen before! We made her comfortable in the box, then carried her to a nice part of Soho Square to be released back into the wilds of Westminster. I can now add “mouse-catching” to my CV.”
It would be great if you could tell us in your own words why Office Managers are so essential to the organisations they work for.
“Office Managers are the invisible glue that holds a workplace together. Staff only start to notice how many things they cover when the Office Manager is not there – whether it’s the coffee machine not being topped up or the printer needing a new ink cartridge – all the background tasks colleagues don’t give a thought to suddenly stop. Things very quickly start to fall over when the Office Manager takes a day off! Their combination of people skills, attention to detail and organisational prowess are not often recognised or praised as highly as they should be.”
What advice would you give to other Office Managers hoping to replicate your success?
“My best advice is to stay positive and keep a sense of humour about you. There are times when the job is fun, rewarding, and a great journey. There are other times where it is stressful, exhausting, and frustrating. If you’re able to see the positive side to a situation, you will find problem solving that much easier and the role that much more enjoyable. It is also a massive help when dealing with others – they’re more likely to be supportive and helpful if you’re positive and relaxed.”
We have just opened nominations for the tenth annual PA of the Year Awards and are looking for more Office Managers like Sarah who go above and beyond every single day. Sound familiar? Nominate yourself or a colleague today.