Nature and Functions of Office

Every modern organization is required to have an office. Whether it is a Government department, business firm, school, hospital, or a voluntary organization, the existence of an office is a must to enable necessary clerical and administrative tasks to be performed properly. An office is required for collection, arrangement, retention and dissemination (communication) of right information at the right time and to the right person. Its activities such as mail handling, filing, indexing, copying, telephone handling etc. must be controlled and supervised properly. An office manager controls all the frequently performed duties in an office. The office manager performs the managerial functions, namely planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling.

In this lesson you will learn about the meaning of ‘Office’, functions of a modern office and the need for and importance of office.


Office — Meaning and Objectives

If you visit a firm, school or hospital you will find that a number of activities are being performed, such as letters received, dispatched, typing, photocopying, word processing, filing, handling of office machines etc. The place where all such activities are performed is known as office.

Thus office is a service department of an organization, which is connected with the handling of records and provision of various services like typing, duplicating, mailing, filing, handling office machines, keeping records, drafting, using information, handling money and other miscellaneous activities.

Definition of office

Some of the popular definitions of office are as follows:

‘‘Office is a place where clerical operations are carried on’’.—Denier, J.C.

‘‘Office is a unit where relevant records for the purpose of control, planning and efficient management of the organization are prepared, handled and preserved. It provides facilities for internal and external communication and coordinates activities of different departments of the organization’’.

The above definitions highlight the following characteristics—

  • collecting information
  • processing information
  • storing information
  • coordinating information
  • distributing information

Therefore, an office may be defined as a place where all the activities concerned with collecting, processing, storing and distributing information for efficient and effective management of an organization are carried out. In every modern organization, be it a business concern or a Government department, there has to be an office. It is essential for the efficient management of the organization.


Objectives of an office

The main objectives of an office are as follows:

(1) Aid to Management:

The office provides aid to management in performing the following functions:

Direction: Direction and guidance of management to various sections and departments are issued through the office.

Communication: The office serves as a communication channel between different parts of the organization. It handles mail.

Planning: The office helps management in planning for smooth functioning and progress of the organization by providing necessary information and data.

Coordination: The office also facilitates co-ordination by maintaining links among departments.


(2) Preserving Records

The office maintains necessary books and records of the organization.

(3) Providing Information

It provides the right kind of information to management at the right time.

(4) Providing Office Services

It provides clerical and secretarial services to different executives.

(5) Distribution of work

The office distributes the work among various employees and identifies their duties and functions.

(6) Selection and Appointment

It also handles selection and appointment of employees.

In short, the office is an important and indispensable part of every organization.


 Functions of a Modern Office

An office is primarily concerned with collection and supply of information. Accurate and up to date information relating to organization and other agencies affecting the organization is always required for taking decisions and formulating policies. Besides, office has assumed many other responsibilities, such as safeguarding assets, personnel management, and procurement of assets etc., which are incidental to the primary function. Therefore, the functions of a modern office may be classified into two categories:

1. Basic functions, and

2. Administrative functions.

 1. Basic functions

Basic functions are those functions of an office which need to be performed in all types of organizations. They are mainly related to receiving and giving of information. These basic functions are as follows:

  1. Collecting information

The office receives or collects information about various activities of the organization. The information may be collected from internal or external sources. Internal sources may be employees and various departments of the organization. The external sources are customers, suppliers and Government Departments etc. From internal sources information may be received in the form of letters, circulars, reports etc., and external sources provide information through letters, orders, invoices, inquiries, reports, questionnaires etc. The executives of the organization may also collect information while visiting other organizations.


  1. Recording information

The office keeps record of information collected from various sources to make it readily available to the management. The information is kept in the form of correspondence, reports, statements, circulars, lists, charts, registers, books, etc. An office has also to maintain records as prescribed under law. The registered office of a company is required to maintain Register of Members under the Companies Act, 1956.


  1. Arranging, analyzing and processing the information

The information collected in an office is generally not in the form in which it may be used by the management. Therefore, facts and figures collected have to be

arranged, processed, organized and analyzed to make them useful to the management. In these connection financial statements, statistical statements, charts, lists, reports, summaries are prepared.


  1. Preserving Information

The information is properly sorted out and preserved in the most economic and scientific manner. Various types of equipments, filing cabinets, etc. are used for preserving records. Unnecessary and out-dated records are destroyed to make space for new and valuable records.


  1. Supplying information

All accumulated and processed information is useless unless it is communicated. The office serves as a two way channel for communication. On the one hand, it supplies the collected, recorded and processed information to the management and on the other hand, the policy decisions, guidelines and instructions issued by the management to the departments are also routed through the office. The information may be supplied verbally or in writing. Internal Agencies : Employees, Departments, Management etc. External Agencies: Customers, Suppliers, Govt. Deptt. etc.

  1. Receiving Information 5. Giving information
  2. Recording Information
  3. Analyzing and Arranging Information
  4. Preserving Information

Administrative Functions

Administrative functions are in addition to the basic functions. But the office cannot hope to work smoothly without them. These relate to the tasks of protecting and safeguarding assets, maintaining and enhancing the operating efficiency, stationery control, choice and use of the office equipments and selection, training, placement, and remuneration of the personnel etc. The following functions are normally considered as administrative functions of an office:- 

  1. Management functions

Various functions of management are also applicable to the management of a office functions. Office work has to be planned, organized and executed according to the plan. Control is exercised to ensure efficiency of operations in the office. Staffing, directing, communicating, co-ordination, motivating are also important for the management of offices.


  1. Instituting office systems and routines

An office has to develop systems and procedures for providing better services to other departments. Each phase of office work is carefully analyzed and a proper procedure is developed for it. Proper sequencing of different tasks is necessary to ensure continuous flow of work.


  1. Procuring stationery and supplies

Adequate supply of office stationery of proper quality is necessary for the efficient performance of office work. The office purchases standard quality paper, pens, ink and other stationery items, maintains the stock and issues them only on demand.


  1. Designing and control of office forms

Use of standardized forms simplifies office operations. It is the responsibility of the office to design, standardize, provide and control the forms to be used in the office as well as in other departments of the enterprise.


  1. Purchasing office equipments and furniture

Efficient and economical performance of office work requires proper furniture, equipment and machines. Office has to arrange for selection and purchase of these items from reliable suppliers. It has also to ensure timely availability of furniture etc., to departments and employees to facilitate proper utilization, as well as arrange for maintenance, servicing and replacement according to need.


  1. Safeguarding of Assets

Different types of assets are maintained in an organization. The assets must be protected against damages and losses on account of fire, theft etc. An efficient control system is exercised by office to safeguard the assets.


  1. Personnel Management

The efficiency of office work depends very much on the employees. Their appointment, training, promotion, appraisal and welfare are the functions of the office.


  1. Maintaining Public Relations

An organization depends on public reputation and goodwill for its existence and progress. Maintaining public relations is also the responsibility of the office. Most organizations have reception counters to greet and receive visitors to the organization. The above are some of the more important functions of office. The nature of functions differs from organization to organization as per needs.


Types of Office Layouts

It is a diagram drawn on a piece of paper showing the organization structure of firm. The purpose of drawing it is to show all concerned what is the organization structure the company has been divided into departments and into sections plus the responsibilities assigned to each office. 

Forms of organization charts

It refers to how organization charts can be put or presented on the piece of paper by direction. An organization chart may be drawn horizontally or vertical

Advantages of organization charts

  1. They portray the type of organization and define the sphere of authority for the supervision staff.
  2. They show the various depts., departmental sections and their relationship to one another.
  3. They are useful when explaining to the new members of staff the type of organization they are to work in and their  part in it .( induction)
  4. They show the chain of command and delegation of authority.
  5. They portray the span of control.
  6. They facilitate job grading and fixing of salaries scales.


  1. They may give an impression that the organization structure is not flexible if they are poorly drawn. People using them may draw misleading conclusion.
  2. They may be difficult and time consuming to prepare.
  3. They may not show how much responsibility and authority has been allocated to each official.
  4. It may lead to misunderstanding regarding the status of certain officers e.g. junior officers at the bottom may be considered to be inferior.


It is a frame work showing   business operation.


The duties of this general office are

  1. To provide general services for the specialized dept, it thus.
  2. Receives and distribute mails to all other departments.
  3. Collect from un posted mails to all other departments
  4. Control the filing & indexing system for other departments.
  5. Types all the correspondence for all the departments.
  6. Undertakes reprographic work for all departments this handles the telephone and messenger services.
  7. It acts as a resource  centre providing  things as
  1. Handout
  2. Publicity material
  3. Display facilities
  4. Running and controlling the library as a resource centre.

It acts as a reserve for other department in times of pressure e.g.  if one of the departmental typist  is sick, the typing  pool  can allocate  one of his  typist to that  department


The centralized services are performed by various members of staff. These office workers are graded differently on basis of their qualification, experience and nature of work. They include

  1. The office messenger
  2. Receptionist
  3. Clerical staff.
  4. Copy typist
  5. Stenographers or shorthand typist
  6. Personal secretary
  7. The supervisor or section head



Should be treated with some respect that is given to other members of the organization,

he should;

  1. Be a person of general   education
  2. Have knowledge of organization and the town where the organization operates.
  3. Should wear organization uniform for identification with a badge bearing the name of the organization and his name.
  4. Be able to perform some simple general routine.
  5. Have courteous and sense of understanding.


Duties of office messenger

  1. Collecting and posting mails
  2. Mails distribution within the offices or depts.
  3. Taking of the parcels to the carrier for dispatch.
  4. Messengerial duties e.g. Collecting files from the registries
  5. Taking work for duplication or undertaking duplication himself.
  6. Helping the receptionist to escort the visitors to offices within the building or to another building.
  7. Training in the  office  routine to include sorting, recording, filing, petty  cash record, telephone so as to  acquire  a good  all around  general clerical experience for his failure progress.
  8. Making and serving tea.
  9. Relieving the telephone or reprographic cleric at times of sickness in an emergency.



Reception office

It is that part of an office where all visitors to an organization are required to report and inform the receptionist about the purpose of their visit.

The receptionist receives the visitors and guides them to see the concerned staff member.

Importance of Reception office

  1. It helps to create a good reputation of a firm (image)
  2. It helps to attract more customers.
  3. It serves the time of visitors by guiding them see the concerned people in the organization.
  4. All the visitors and staff members pass through the reception office and this procedure helps to enforce proper security measures.
  5. Help minimize the expenditure of the firm e.g. by controlling the calls made i.e. the reverse calls.


Location of a reception office

It must be located near the main entrance of the office building or at the entrance to the   suite of the office.

The person who is employed to receive and guide the visitors is called Receptionist. In some offices, the notice take “enquiries “or   reception helps the visitor to find the reception office.

Layout of the reception office

The layout of the reception office helps to create a good image   of any organization to its visitors. It must be impressive and well planned. Some organizations keep very expensive furniture in the reception office. The office is important aspect which must be taken into consideration for an impressive layout.


Factors to consider when laying out a reception on office

  1. It should be next to the main office entrance.
  2. Organizational type i.e decentralized or centralized organization.
  3. Capital (cost)
  4. The size of the organization
  5. The duties to be performed at the reception
  6. The occupants of the reception office.

Facilities in the reception office

  • Telephone
  • Air conditioner
  • Cabinets (shelves)
  • Computer or typewriter
  • Lounge (sofa set)
  • Reading materials
  • Flowers

There is a lounge in the reception office of a large organization where visitors sit waiting to be attended by the reception office.



The visitors can get in touch with the organization or staff members if necessary by telephone.

Reading materials

In busy offices, some reading materials are provided to the visitors’ i.e journals, magazines, or newspaper while waiting to be attended to.


Flowers are used to decorate reception office to give a pleasant   view to the visitors.



  1. To receive the visitor s and guide those to see respective staff members.
  2. To receive messengers and to pass them to the respective people.
  3. To control the switch board and to handle the telephone system.
  4. To receive the packages for onwards transmission to respective departments.
  5. To make the appointments on behalf of visitors with senior members of staff.
  6. To type letters and other documents
  7. To receive orders from customers if
  8. To supervise the messengers and instruct them to deliver messages and mail.
  9. To perform the duties of a petty cashier if required.
  10. To keep simple records e.g cars going to work out.
  11. To maintain the register of callers to the organization or visitors.


Qualities of a receptionist

Traits (character)

A receptionist must have some specific qualities in order to perform his/her duties more efficient and successfully. The good reputation of an organization can be created by devoted as efficient receptionist

Qualities of a receptionist

  1. Attractive personality e.g the way a person is dressed. A receptionist must have attractive personality, a smart appearance of the receptionist helps to create a good image of the organization.
  2. Impressive speaking style: e.g proper pronunciation and be fluent in the languages used. This will help to convince the callers or the visitors.
  3. Friendly attitude e.g they should be ready to assist, willing to help and ready to listen to the visitors. He should be willingness to help the visitor and his behavior must be friendly.
  4. Sound Knowledge: A receptionist must have sound knowledge in respect of the various activities of the organization.
  5. Time consciousness: A receptionist must give due consideration to the visitors’ time, the visitors to an organization expect to be attended to without unnecessary delays. If the receptionist is too busy , then  a statement  such as  “ I will be with you in a few minutes” is needed. This will give the impression to those visitors that they are going to be attended.
  6. Polite & diplomatic: A receptionist must be polite and diplomatic while attending to visitors. Even to visitors whose attitudes are aggressive and unreasonable.
  7. Honest and sincere: A receptionist must take interest in the problems of the visitors and try to solve the problems honestly and sincerely.

The reception procedure

The reception procedures must be laid down by the organization and it must be followed strictly by the receptionist.

The following rules   are normally included in the procedure

  1. To welcome the visitors warmly and with a smile
  2. To find out what the visitor want s and then try to solve the problem as soon as possible.
  3. To avoid doing unnecessary things while the visitor is waiting for attention of the receptionist.
  4. It the receptionist is busy at the switch board, the visitor must be received with a similar in the nearest time possible.
  5. To offer a sit to the visitor if he/she is required to wait for some times.
  6. To escort the visitor personally or call a messenger to escort him while going in to see the concerned person.
  7. To ensure that the  visitors was well attended to by  the concerned person

Office Facilities

Office furniture consists of tables, chairs, stools, cupboard, and lockers e.t.c

Furniture is important for the efficiency of the office employees and welfare of the staff.

Types of furniture

They are as follows;

1. Executive furniture

These are furniture purchased according to the taste of high officials e.g. managers and office above.

2. Special purpose furniture

These are furniture required for special jobs e.g. typists table

3. Built-in furniture

The buildings are constructed in space saving method. The cupboards are built in the walls of the rooms

4. General furniture

Is designed to facilitate the work of clerks. The furniture are provided according to their requirements.


Fitting and accessories

They include desk lamp, telephone stand, coat stand, waste basket e.t.c

When choosing such items their colour may be considered so as not to ruin the pleasing atmosphere of the office.

Factors to consider when buying furniture for the office

  1. The cost
  2. Technology used
  3. Availability
  4. Portability
  5. Weight
  6. Space available
  7. Durability of he furniture
  8. Safety
  9. Design used

Maintenance of furniture

  1. Applying oil lubricates on movable parts.
  2. Proper use of manual
  3. Replacement of the broken  parts immediately
  4. Painting them
  5. Avoid unnecessary movement of the furniture.
  6. Keeping them away from dust
  7. Mending them
  8. Greasing


Office stationery

Refers to all writing materials used in the office. They include paper, envelops, rubber, ribbon, stencil, correcting fluid, pin, tags e.t.c.

Stationery control

The following guidelines are useful in ensuring that the stationery in the office is not overstocked or run out of stock.

  1. Stationery should be bought centrally and in bulk to secure quantity discount
  2. The issuing system must be planned properly to eliminate wasteful consumption.
  3. The proper control over the use of stationery must be included in the duties of he office supervisor.
  4. Reuse of stationery items e.g. used envelops for internal mail e.t.c should be explored.
  5. Stock levels should be set out to avoid running out of items of stationery or over-stocking.


Continuous Stationery

Means the printed forms are automatically produced in a continuous strip and departed from one another by perforations.


  1. Waste of time can be avoided by use of continuous stationer
  2. Neatness can be maintained
  3. It helps to achieve the uniformity in the use of forms.


  1. It is more expensive than ordinary forms.
  2. Mistake can not be easily corrected
  3. The errors cannot be rectified easily
  4. Bottom copies of the set may be faint and there may be confusion in respect of figures.

Types of continuous stationery

  1. Roll stationery
  2. Interfold stationery
  3. Sprocket feeding


Ways of controlling office facilities

  1. Purchase on recommend and reasonable furniture
  2. Give priorities to multi-purpose facilities.
  3. Ensure that there is adequate space for them
  4. They should be well designed to avoid unnecessary movement and breakages
  5. Ensure careful movement procedures incase of change
  6. Buy only durable facilities
  7. Use the right facilities for the right job.
  8. Label the facilities if possible
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