Create a Desk Reference Manual

By | Jan 19, 2009

Corporate training
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dan4th

What happens if a sudden emergency occurs and you have to be off work for a week or more?  Could a temp walk into your office and be able to easily handle things while you’re gone?  She can if you’ve created a Desk Reference Manual with procedures on how to handle your duties while you’re out.

How to Start – Figure Out What You Actually Do

Making a list of what you actually do can be rather daunting considering just how much we do on a daily basis.  A good place to start in creating your desk manual is your job description.  After listing your duties from your job description, start listing things you do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis that aren’t actually listed on your job description.  Just figuring out what you do every day is a big task in itself.  I found that keeping a time log for a few weeks is a big help in picking up the small duties that are easy to overlook.

Next Step – List Procedures

Once you have a good list of duties developed, break down each duty into the procedures involved.  There may be one procedure for each duty, but you might also have multiple procedures for each duty.  For instance, answering phones would include procedures for answering the phones, transferring calls, putting calls on hold, transferring calls to voicemail, checking voicemail, and taking messages.  Some of these may seem obvious to you, but for someone walking into your office for the first time, they may not be obvious.  Be safe and write a procedure for each one.

Writing the Actual Procedures

Now comes the fun part, writing the actual procedures for your duties.  The best advice I can give you is to be as detailed as possible.  Don’t assume that your reader will actually know what you’re talking about.  Include step-by-step instructions.  For example, don’t just say log-in to the computer, but rather give step-by-step instructions for the log-in.

Putting Together the Manual

Once you have your procedures written, put your manual together.  Remember to include a Table of Contents so that your manual is easy to navigate, and even an index can be handy.  You know your job better than any one else, so you are the best one to decide how your manual should be set up.

Remember the Little Details

You deal with important small details every day.  Don’t forget to include these in your manual.  Who are the important callers who should always be put through?  Who should never be put through?  Where does your boss keep his spare set of keys for when he inevitably locks them in his car?  Does your boss like to review her day with you every morning?  Does he like to have his calendar printed out for him every day?  These little details will help more than anything else in lessening the impact of your absence from the office.

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4 Comments so far
  1. jenny33 (1 comments) January 8, 2010 2:49 am

    very useful, i will past this to my friend who happens to be needing this.
    .-= jenny33´s last blog ..Being an Extraordinary Entrepreneur (Get Pumped!) =-.

  2. serviced offices (1 comments) September 8, 2010 5:44 am

    I’ve just found out that I will be working with another person in my department, but as we will work different shifts, it’s unlikely I’ll ever see her. So I want to start making a reference manual or something like that but I haven’t been entirely sure what to include in it. I’ll steal some of these ideas and kick on from there, cheers x


  3. Roger Cooper (1 comments) September 21, 2010 10:56 am

    Yeah it is very necessary to create such detailed desk reference manuels for anyone to handle your workload easily and you can also bit relaxed that your work is being done properly. I think lot of times this is the issue that the other person just cannot decide where to start but having such desk reference manuels will really help greatly.

  4. Lilian r. Benjamin (1 comments) October 12, 2010 2:27 am

    This is so amazing. I stumbled upon this site because I have been tasked with arranging an “Office Skills Workshop”. The information given here is so practical and is something that I most definately would have overlooked and regarded as stuff that anybody should know. thank you for being so practical.

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