The Office: Meaning, Definition, Functions And Specific Tasks

Definition Of An Office
It is not quite easy to define an office precisely. Office is a generic term.
It connotes a building, a position, and a function. Authors differ in their definitions of what an office is. Some have defined an office in relation to a department or a division of an organization. Others have defined it in relation to specific buildings or rooms where all kinds of business transactions are carried out. The Offices, Shops and Railway Act 1963 defines Office as “a building or part of a building, the sole or principal use is for administrative and clerical work….” Any definintion that confines an office to a building or room is restrictive.
Although authors on office administration differe on the precise definition of an office, many agree on the functions performed by an office. It is from that perspective that the following is considered suitable definition:
“An Office is that part of an organization which provides all kinds of communication and records services and the processing of information required for efficient management and control of the operations of the entire organization.
The above definition makes it clear that an office refers to essential clerical functions that cut-across the whole organization and helps the management to direct and control the entire organization, rather than a particular place where such work is performed.
Functions Of An Office
Office functions vary according to the size, the nature of business and the organizational structure of the enterprise concerned. It will not help to list the numerous activities of the office. However from the definition that was given earlier there is justification in stating that the functions of an office can be divided into two broad categories: (i) Basic functions, and (ii) administrative management functions.
Our task here is limited to examining the basic functions of an office. It should be said, however, that the administrative management functions are auxiliary functions which are essential in ensuring that the office performed the basic functions. The basic functions of the office are:
1. Receiving Information
2. Giving Information
3. Arranging Information
4. Recording Information
5. Safeguarding Assests.
1. Receiving Information
It is one of the main routine works of the office to receive information from different sources. The sources may be broadly divided into internal, external, and personal sources. The internal sources refer to information flow between the various departments and managers within the organization. While the external sources of receiving information may be from customers from or external organizations including government ministries. The third source of information is through personal contacts between staff in the organization and from visitors coming to the office for any transactions or meetings.
Information received take many forms depending on the source and the nature of transactions involved. From the internal source information may be received in the form of memorandum, circulars, reports, telephone call or inter-com, etc.
From the external source, information received may take the form of letters, telegrams, telephone calls, orders, invoice, inquiries, reports and circulars, telex, newspapers, credit notes etc. From the personal contact, information may be received in the form of interview, and information received from callers, inquiries etc.
2. Giving Information
Information receieved by the office may be supplied to the management to aid decision-making and policy formulation. The office also has the duty to pass on the management policies and instructions to guide the operations of the departments and the managers. The office is the public contact for the organization and so gives information to the public as and when required.
The information given by the office may be oral or written, and may take the various forms already mentioned for receiving information i.e. Letters, reports, circulars and may include statement of accounts, estimates, financial statements.
Information should be given promptly when required and it should be accurate and complete.
3. Arranging Information
Arranging information is one of the most important office functions. This is the processing stage of information received, and which may be given out later. It involves sorting, analyzing, computing and statistical work.
The need for arranging information is that information is received in form of data or facts and may be in the forms that management may readily use them for policy formulation or decision making. The data in its disparate nature may not give comprehensive picture until they are arranged.
Therefore, the various information received mus be properly arranged, processed and organized before being supplied to the management. For example, it will be meaningless if piles of invoices are stocked without processing them to give details of sales and purchases.
Forms of arranging information include preparing diagrams, statistical charts/statements, financial statements, lists, reports or general and specific nature.
4. Recording Information
The nature and needs of the business determines the sort of records that are maintained. It is the function of the office to keep records of business transactions in such a way as to make for easy retrieval.
Recording information enhances its communication and the presentation of records for future reference in order to guide actions and management decision-making process. Recording information includes the maintenance of records in certain books and registers, computer diskettes, personnel data records and financial accounts. Some records must be kept to satisfy legal requirements; for instance, a company registered under the Companies Decree is required to keep statutory record.
Recording information for future use underscores the importance of information retrieval. This refers to accessibility of recorded and stored information. Cases of retrieval depend on the methods of storage used. Proper indexing makes for smooth and fast retrieval.
5. Safeguarding Assets
Assets are important for effective functioning of an organization. Therefore, it is an essential function of the office to arrange for the protection of assets from damage or loss. Assets range from liquid cash, stock, debtors, office machines to physical structures such as buildings, furniture and fittings.
It is through proper recording of information about assets, taking adequate protective measures and maintaining of constant watch on the affairs of the organization; highlighting areas of possible dangers and giving early warning signal to management of any deviations that the business assets can be safeguarded. For example, in keeping stock records all deficiencies must be reported and all overdue debts must be reported before it is too late fro remedial action.
Proper care of the documents of the business is also a measure of safeguarding of assets.
Summary Of Specific Tasks In The Functions Of The Office
1. Receiving And Collecting Information
a. At a personal level by word of mouth
b. By telephone
c. By written communication both internally and externally.
2. analyzing Content
a. Systematically arranging for further processing and distribution
3. Processing And Interpreting Information
a. Gathering statistics
b. Feeding information into a computer
c. Interpreting computer printouts
d. Costing and budgeting.
4. Recording Information For Future Reference
a. Setting up all forms of record
b. Maintaining all such systems
5. Communication Information Presented In The Most Effective Way
a. Verbally on a person to person basis
b. By telephone
c. On paper
d. Graphic or visual presentation
6. Protecting The Business And Safeguarding Its Assets
a. Care of finance
b. Care of stock and fixtures and fittings
c. Insurances
d. Statutory obligations.