Administrative assistant Linda Bates, of Vancouver, was on her way to a ski vacation when she got a frantic phone call:
“The copy machine is jammed! What should I do?”
After walking her co-worker through a series of questions, trying to troubleshoot the problem, she gave up.
“I can’t do anything from here,” she said. “Call the service people.”
Shirley Hepner, an executive assistant in Connecticut, recalls being in the fourth day of recovery after knee surgery, when a co-worker called to tell her the toilet was clogged. “What do we do?” she asked.
Often, admin pros are the ones colleagues turn to when things go wrong in the office. Could these highly intelligent workers really find it so hard to free up a paper jam or call a plumber?
Bates, the admin pro from Vancouver and president of the Canadian Association of Administrative Assistants, says the path to creating a self-sufficient staff begins with teaching them how to use equipment as it comes into the office. She holds info sessions for new hires, too.
Hepner hasn’t yet “trained” her colleagues to be self-sufficient. She does teach all new employees the copy machine’s most complex functions. (Collating and stapling give most people trouble.)
She did find a solution to one problem: The pile of dishes that others constantly left in the office’s kitchen sink. She mounted a toy video camera next to the sink. Employees know it’s a fake. Still, the fact that it’s there must remind them to clean up, because now they do.
To train your co-workers for self-sufficiency, consider creating your own “Insider’s Guide to Being Handy in the Office” training course. Print out the finished product, and post it in high-traffic areas.
Here’s what other admins say they’re most pestered about:
- How to unjam the copy machine
- How to fix a printer jam
- How to unfreeze the computer
- How to adjust the temperature.
— Adapted from “How to Be Handy Around the Office,” Tara Weiss, Forbes.