Office Manager vs. Facilities Manager: What’s the Difference?
By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
Job titles exist for a reason. Not only do they define a role, they signify responsibility. You wouldn’t ask a lead accountant for help designing a flyer—that’s a graphic designer’s job. But job titles aren’t always so clear. What’s an office manager vs. a facilities manager?
Office. Facilities. To most people, the words are synonymous. To someone familiar with the roles and duties of each, they’re quite different. An office manager facilitates the work employees do; a facility manager oversees the place in which that work happens.
What does an office manager do?
An office manager is akin to an administrator. Their primary duties involve managing the needs of employees and, sometimes, the employees themselves. Office managers typically facilitate work in the workplace, ensuring people get what they need—supplies, accommodations, or information. Some of the universal job duties of an office manager include:
- Managing various office budgets
- Organizing meetings and arranging appointments
- Supervising clerical staff and liaising with management
- Creating and implementing office standardizations and processes
- Ordering and organizing office supplies
In a sense, office managers fill in the gaps within the workplace. Much of what they do enables others to work without interruption—ensuring the office is well-supplied or arranging meetings with clients.
How to become an office manager
An office manager can be an entry-level position; however most companies choose someone with management experience to fill the role. Office managers usually hold a degree in business administration or similar. Companies may choose to hire a new graduate to manage their office or promote from within, giving the job to someone who already understands the demands and expectations.
Office managers need organization and communication skills above all else. Attention to detail is of critical importance—especially since office managers typically handle sensitive tasks, like balancing the office budget or filing proprietary information. Leadership skills are a definite plus, as the office manager is frequently the point of contact when people need help. Finally, analytical skills are a must-have trait, since problem-solving is a central aspect of the job.
What does a facility manager do?
Facility managers focus on the big picture: the workplace itself. They’re responsible for providing employees with a place to work—one that’s safe, comfortable, and accommodating. If an office manager is responsible for employees, facility managers are responsible for everything that surrounds them. Their duties are immense, spanning facilities at both the macro and the individual workstation levels. Some of the most prominent duties of a facility manager include:
- Building maintenance, upkeep, and improvements
- Vendor management
- Space planning and workplace design
- Real estate forecasting and lease management
- Move scenario planning and execution
Facility managers also handle employee interaction with the workplace. Things like wayfinding and support tickets fall into the realm of facilities management because they involve the actual building itself. Similarly, facilities managers also oversee space utilization and workplace analytics.
How to become a facility manager
Becoming a facilities manager is less direct than that of an office manager. Currently, there aren’t any formalized facilities management degree programs. Most facilities managers hold a bachelors in business, with a certificate in facilities management or advanced training on the subject.
Certification and training through an organization like the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is essential. There are several different distinctions. Most professionals opt for the Certified Facility Manager® (CFM) title, though titles like Facility Management Professional™ (FMP) also hold value. Once certified, professionals need ongoing accreditation and training to stay abreast of evolving facility trends.
Accreditations and certifications are also available from the Building Owners and Managers Institute (BOMI), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). All play a vital role in forward-thinking facilities management.
Both play an important role in the workplace
There’s often confusion between the duties of an office manager and a facilities manager. In name, they’re quite similar; however, in practice, they’re two sides of the same coin. A successful workplace needs both to function. Employees and the business at large benefit from the diligence of both professionals and their abilities to improve how work gets done. Through their combined efforts, employees enjoy a workplace ready to function as-needed on a daily basis.
Keep reading: Ins and Outs of Facility Management Certification