Office Organization

Office Organization In Nigeria, and all over the world, there is the need for the records of business and office activities to be well organized and preserved so that documents can be retrieved and made use of as, and when needed. To do this, it is in the office that such activities are carried out and its records kept. In industry and commerce the organizers wonder whether the organization might run as well, if not better with fewer clerks and less paper. In matters of government, the tax payers are not slow to react unfavorably to growing number of civil servants and local officers.

In broad terms, there can be little doubt that the office can make an important contribution to economic and social life. For instance, without paper. work, any complex industrial society would rapidly come to a standstill
Furthermore, it is to be observed that the wealthier nations of the world are those with the higher proportions of manpower engaged in ‘white-collar’ jobs. The efficient organization must provide its management with efficient information planning, control and financial services. It is obvious however, that there must be a limit to expenditure on administration services. If everyone were engaged in office work, there would be nothing to eat- except paper. To correct, balance must be struck between the resources devoted to directly productive activities and those
devoted to administration. This is as true for a nation as it is for an industrial or commercial undertaking.

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Mills and Standingford (1978:1) opined that in each individual organization, the manager or managers responsible for providing the office services must take positive steps to ensure as far as possible (a) that each service is necessary because it contributes to the effectiveness of the organization and (b) that, in providing that service, the best possible use is made of manpower, machines, equipment and other resources. By every standard of measurement, if there is any office task which does not result in more efficient production, distribution, service or finance, then it is truly unproductive and should no longer be encouraged to carry out any business transaction aimed at a loss. If a task does contribute to the overall effectiveness of the organization, it must be done in the most efficient way.

DEFINITION OF AN OFFICE
It is as well to have an unambiguous definition of the word office. For example, the dictionary states that it is a place where business is carried on”, but some narrower definition is really required. What is generally known as an office
according to Denyer (1974:3) is any room where clerical work is habitually performed as the work of that room; and office management is concerned with the executive control of any such room whether it be a company secretary’s, accountant’s, buyer’s or even an engineer’s office. It is interesting that an office has now received an official definition in the Office Shops and Railway Premises Act of 1963. It first of all defines an office, as A building, or part of building, the sole or principle use of which is an office or for office purposes.

Shaw (1978:1) defines an office as any place where procedures concerned with the receipt, transmittal, production, reproduction, processing, storage and retrieval of information are carried out.
The cab of a lorry where the driver completes his log, the corner of a factory workshop where the foreman completes the production return’s, the massive headquarters of an international organization employing thousands of people who service field operations- each of these is an office.

In the light of the foregoing definitions, we shall attempt to define an office as any place, room, building, or part of a building, where divers functions or activities such as administrative, executive, office routine and clerical works, etc
are regularly performed for the purpose of earning a living. This means that the person setting up an office may find himself doing so in the corner of a bedroom, or in a suite or air-conditioned rooms in a purpose-built tower block.
It is equally likely to be in an old wooden or a newly built house with bathroom facilities for a large family and constant stream or visitors? The type of building, the place, the facilities are in themselves unimportant; it is their suitability or unsuitability for the work to be done that matters.

OFFICE ORGANIZATION
Office organization involves the defining of the duties and responsibilities of the personnel employed in the office.

FUNCTIONS OF AN OFFICE : The functions of an office or the term “office purposes” is expressed to include purpose of administration, clerical work, handling money and telephone and telegraph operating. An extended definition of clerical work is given to cover book-keeping, sorting papers, filing, duplicating, machine calculating, drawing and editorial preparation.
Austin (1974:16) states that without services of the office staff to collect all the information as it comes in by telegram, telex, telephone, direct conversation and by letter, without the services of the office staff who have to sort this information, record it as necessary on charts, in ledgers and in books; without those people who interpret the information and make it more meaningful (figures turned into reports, figures transformed into charts, reports incorporated into statistics, questionnaires processed and turned into reports) it would be difficult for the management of an organization to have all information necessary to enable it to take the right decisions, form the policies and take the action required to make a success of concern.

Providing the right information at the time it is required and not a day later means that someone in the office has to sort all the information, and classify it that it may be retrieved without difficulty immediately it is wanted. The system is devised, the rules are made, the equipment is bought, the entries are made, and the classifying and storing is effected. All these are done by office personnel.

Business concerns are subject to legal requirement, the disregard of which could lead to heavy fines being imposed and even the possible winding up of the concern. For example, companies, especially those registered with  limited liability, must by law send return and copies of their accounts to the Department of Trade (Companies Acts (1948-1967); certain insurance are compulsory (Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance Act 1969); employees must be given a written statement of their terms of employment (Contracts of Employment Act 1972). All
this means that someone in the office must attend to these legal requirements.

Protecting the organization does not end at looking after the legal side of the business. It is necessary to protect its property against loss, theft, damage, obsolescence, fire, and so on. Someone in the office must negotiate the necessary insurance, someone has to make and enforce the rules for the safekeeping of valuable property, someone has to decide what provisions to make in the accounts. Once again, that someone finds a place in the office.

It is important to examine what purpose or purposes the office will have to serve; what type or types of work will have to be done in it? Below is a list of the most usual types of work carried on in an office.
a. receiving and dispatching mail;
b. receiving and making telephone calls;
c. receiving visitors;
d. holding meetings;
e typewriting;
f. copying;
g. duplicating:
h. filing;
storing large quantities of documents-e.g. in a training organization:
j. processing document -e.g. financial, stores, orders:
k record keeping- e.g personnel;
I receiving cash:
m. paying cash;
n. accounting/book keeping;
O. control of transport.

The purpose of an office is of the greatest importance, for it explains the reason why the office is there at all. Secondly come the personal, as without staff an office can achieve nothing Environment, means and method come afterwards This study is presented in that order, which is believed to be the most logical. The office has been described or defined as the “power-house” of an organization. Also, the office has been said to provide a service of communication and record, in fact a leading spokesman of the Institute of Administrative Management has referred
to the office manager as the information officer”. To communicate, means to give and receive information, but in between there is usually recording and often arranging of the information in a form suitable to management The arranging is often accompanied by analyzing the information, as in costing and budgetary control. To sum up then, the basic functions of an office can be said to be the receiving, recording, arranging and analyzing), and the giving of information. If the work of any office, be it sales, purchasing. personnel or even the drawing office is analyzed, it will be seen that this is what is done most of the time.
Ordinarily, there are several activities or functions of the office. These functions can be arranged into six areas: (a) collecting information, (b) sorting and classifying information. (c) recording information, (d) processing and interpreting information (c) diffusing information and (1) protecting the business and safeguarding its assets. These six broad functional areas cover the major office personnel responsibilities. Each of these areas is discussed under the sub-headings below:

(a) Collecting Information:-
The office is a center or a nerve into which information pours from a variety of sources via a number of different means of communication. Ehiametalor (1989:245) states that may organization, whether business, public, educational or social needs information to enable it perform effectively in terms of planning, organizing an decision making. A business organization, for example, may want to know the feelings of its customers towards its product lines and
their level of satisfaction. The problem of product quality, price and availability can only be
solved if management has information to enable it make decision. Information can be received through several sources, either by means of telephone, letters, interviews, or questionnaires. The office co-ordinates the information
collected from a variety of sources and make it readily available for management.
The office is the first point of contact among clients, customers and associates. For example, an office may establish procedures which must be followed before an individual may be allowed to see the chief executive of the
organization. The front office clerk may decide after collecting information from the client the appropriate official to see or he may be able to help the individual client or customers.  At the same time, office personnel screens information as they are received and sorts them into categories. Those that need the immediate attention of management production demands the immediate attention of the chief executive and all those concerned with production. The office also collects or receives information about orders, invoices, minutes of meeting, notices, circulars and circular letters, financial statement, receipts, vouchers, special and routine reports, agenda, etc. These
information are collected and made readily available for decision-making

(b) Sorting and Classifying Information:
Imagine for a moment that all the information which is received and recorded is sent to the Chief Executive exactly the way in which they are received. The work of the executive will be made much difficult since he has to read through relevant and irrelevant information to decipher the information for decision-making.
The executive will no doubt have a hard time making decisions and matters that need immediate attention. As a result of the difficulty of deciphering information the receiving officer records information and present it in a
meaningful and easily understandable format. It must be remembered that the information accumulated by the office is seldom in the form in which it is to be given out; data are collected from different sources, calculations have to be made. The office is responsible for supplying information in the form which best serves management, a function of highest importance and one which must be carried out by properly trained staff.
Examples of information received and sorted and classified before they are recorded are invoices, costings, accounts, statistical statements, financial statements, reports, various business documents (correspondence), telephone calls, telegrams, radio messages. A stock records, financial and management accounts and sales analysis.
Indeed, unless information received or collected is systematically and scientifically sorted for further processing, it may be too disjointed and unrelated to be of any value.

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(c) Recording Information Closely related to collecting and sorting information is the recording of information. The objectives of keeping records is to enable information to be made readily available to the management when required. For instance, some records are required to be kept by law but, other than these, records should
be kept only to meet the needs of management in planning and controlling the business.
Record keeping is one of the essential features of the office.
Information received from customers must be recorded and kept. Information relating to productivity,
product quality, transactions, research, meetings must be stored always where it can easily be retrieved for management to plan and make decisions about the goals of the organization
In social institution like schools, records about student achievement, behavior of students, cost of education and enrollments are recorded and kept in place where they can readily be available to the management for planning and decision-making purposes. In government organizations, recording of information becomes an important task of highly selected office workers who collect information, sort and record it for decision-making about the viability of a social programme. Finally, if records are not maintained properly, it may be impossible to refer to important documents, to check on vital information.

(d) Processing and Interpreting Information:
It is sometimes necessary to work on figures before they become really meaningful. Statistics must be interpreted, computer input must be processed; output must be interpreted. The information must be reduced to its most meaningful form if management is to be made aware of danger signals, of business trends, of a true and fair assessment of the state of the business.

(e) Diffusing Information:
As the management may require, the office gives out information from its records. Information is prepared in advance and stored to meet the request of management at any given time. If management needs information about
orders for the next six months, such information is supplied without delay.
Estimates and expenditure, invoices, cash sales, credit sales, progress reports, financial statements and so forth are some of the information prepared by the office for use by the management. Such records are retrieved whenever
they are required. Information can be given either verbally or in writing.
An executive may want information from the office through the telephone; such information must be given out to him immediately. In some cases, information may be requested in writing. A review of the financial position
of a company during the second quarter may be given in writing. The office also may give information about the company to customers, clients, members of boards, and the public at large. Ideally it is the business of the
office to see that those who might need it, get information. Not only members of internal staff will require information, but “outsiders” also. Thus, customers will want to know prices and delivery dates: insurance companies must have accurate and complete information about the business’s valuable assets, and so on. Only through effective communication can the information be properly diffused. It is for the office to select the means of communication (letter, telephone, telegram, telex) and to make these methods effective.

(f) Protecting the Business and Safeguarding its Assets:
The duties of the office would not be fully performed if they were however restricted to the mere collecting, sorting, recording processing and diffusing of information. In addition to these functions, the office also plays important roles in safeguarding assets and protecting its business. For instance, it is the responsibility of the office to review credits, and to write to debtors and suppliers to make sure that money is not lost. The office warns management against the payment or money to contractors who have not provided services according to specification or who have not utilized mobilization fees to perform reasonable work. Mobilization fees are paid out to contractors by the Nigerian governments to enable the contractors to begin work on a project. Usually, depending on the type of contract and who is giving it out, mobilization fees can range from ten to twenty percent of the face value of the contract. Since the office is supposed to process such payments and any subsequent payments, it is in a better position to advise management on the extent of work done. By this, the organization will avoid loss of money to bad
contractors.

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In the case of educational institutions and government organizations, the office tries to get from employees money not spent judiciously, especially, money given out as travel allowance or touring, advance. The office also carries out
inspection of motor vehicles to make sure car loans granted by the employer to its employees are spent for the purpose for which the loans were granted. Safeguarding of assets can really take several forms, from auditing to banking of daily cash receipts and so forth.
In protecting the business and safeguarding its assets the concern must be protected from defaulting (not complying with the law). This means that minute books must be kept up, licenses taken out, returns must be registered, insurance must be effected. The property of the organization must likewise be protected against fire
(proper equipment), against loss and theft (proper precautions), against obsolescence (proper depreciation).

Above all, the office, in every aspect of its work, is concerned with information, with obtaining and collecting information, sorting, recording, processing and interpreting it, supply it to management when required and
preserving it for as long as it is useful in promoting the enterprise concerned. The office maintains communications between departments and with outside firms and government agencies.

The six broad functions outlined and discussed must be performed in any organization. In a small one-man enterprise, a separate office service may not be necessary. This is because the business concerned is a relatively small one, in which the organizer may largely be contained sometimes in his memory. But this is not the case with a large concern. For instance, in the larger and more complex business, however, the chief executive cannot deal personally with all inwards and outwards communication; he cannot remember or record all the facts relating to the business; nor can he exercise a detailed supervision over the handing of cash and other assets. The office is there certainly to accomplish these functions on his behalf, hence the office has been frequently described as the power-house”, “nerve center”, or the “servant of management”.

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