Meet the Office Manager: FIONA — PUPPET
“You get happy not only from your own thank you’s, but from standing there and seeing how much everyone cares about each other”
Fiona is the Supervisor of Workplace Services in EMEA of the London based offices of software company Puppet. After 4 and a half years working in a variety of roles, she currently looks after the staff in Puppet's soon to be four European offices. “You can be an office manager anywhere, but whether or not it’s fun depends where you are.”
Office managers’ responsibilities vary hugely depending on the company, and it’s obvious that Fiona loves the challenges that this constant change creates: “My love is being an office manager and looking after all the people. I believe that the needs of the many outweigh the one”.
Having a positive office culture is integral for companies and their employees. Office culture affects employee retention, company reputation, productivity and quality of work. Understanding this, Puppet focuses on creating a positive office culture for all employees. “I help grow the culture, that's the job of everyone, and that's what we do, we encourage it to be the type of culture we want it to be.” Building the culture is a huge aspect of the office managers role, and food is a huge part of it. Puppet does not provide their employees with every meal each day, but, as Fiona puts it: “it makes up for working late or putting in extra hours, we won’t let people go hungry”.
Offering food in the office has a large impact on the culture, “especially for people who come from more traditional companies. Coming from a place where they don’t get anything, it makes them feel valued”.
Puppet has a weekly Wednesday lunch, ordered through City Pantry which has been a tradition since the company was founded. “Everyone has to come together and eat. You’re not allowed to take your food away and eat alone”.
The tradition of having team lunches on a Wednesday was started by Puppet founder Luke Kanies. Puppet HQ employees are encouraged to sit with someone new every lunch, however, for smaller offices the only rule is that you’re not allowed to take your lunch away and eat at your desk.
As many employees live outside of London, and find it difficult to attend many after work socials, having weekly lunches creates a time for the whole office to be social, and a chance for employees to get to know each other.
Fiona settled on City Pantry after struggling with other offers: “I tried other suppliers but sometimes the tech did not live up to standards and if the tech was good, we found that the customer service wasn't good”. A friend’s recommendation was the key: “I was introduced to Ellie who is great, she is so lovely and we built up this relationship. Even as City Pantry was starting out, it had great customer service, and then the tech caught up as well”
As important as the website and tech might be, Fiona still finds that the customer service is the most important element when working with a catering company. “The tech has gone through great development but it’s the care about the relationship that is important - great customer service, great tech and great vendors, is a combination that can’t be beaten.”
When Puppet joined City Pantry, Fiona relied more on her City Pantry account manager: “Because i didn't know the vendors well, Nora’s recommendations were always spot on. To have someone that knows what they're doing, that is helpful”. Now that she is more familiar with the offer, she is able to ‘self-serve’ (place orders with no assistance from her account manager) on occasion, empowering her to make choices based on what teams enjoy, such as Jungle Curry from Darbaar.
This also relies on the huge variety available, with over 250 restaurants and caterers at Fiona’s fingertips: “it’s quite fantastic, never stuck for choice...It’s almost difficult to choose there’s so much choice!”.
This is also vital for one of the main struggles when feeding teams: dietaries. As in most offices, Puppet had to cater for people with various dietary requirements – if food is unlabelled, chaos can ensue. Puppet never struggle to match the food with the eater: “The labelling - everything is fully there and it’s got everything i need to know on it. It saves loads of time. Before City Pantry we really struggled with ensuring dietaries were correct, but now Nora suggests what meals can be made to suit specific dietary requirements”.
As a key part of company culture, ordering the food comes with unique pressures: “I feel that there is a lot of pressure regarding feeding people at work, 90% of my job people don’t see, such as ordering the food, and then the 10% that they see is the food on the table so you have to do it spectacularly”. Fiona is happy to report that City Pantry tech makes it easy, so the spectacular comes naturally: “Having options pre-filled with suggested amounts is great and then having those options customisable is even better, it saves me so much time. It’s in the sweet spot right now”
As you enter the Puppet offices, you are greeted with a wall that is plastered with thank you letters. Employees are encouraged to write 1 thank you letter each week to a colleague; the letters are stuck to a wall so everyone can celebrate the success of others.
“You get happy not only from your own thank you’s, but from standing there and seeing how much everyone cares about each other”. Puppet builds a culture that you can see on the walls, and Fiona is proud to be at its heart.