We are in full-swing summer and employers hope to solidify effective time management techniques for remote working teams to ensure their engagement and productivity remain top priority, as team members might be taking some time off during the summer holidays.
Gearing up for a productive summer, with fewer team members on hand, and perhaps more work than usual, effective time management is a crucial element for any remote working team.
While effective time management is an important element within the (virtual) office and ensures the performance and collaboration of all team members at once, it’s also an important contributor to the well-being of employees.
Workplace research has shown that poor time management can lead to increased levels of stress, lack of concentration, friction among employees, ruin workplace relationships, and even cost businesses more money to resolve.
Looking at it from this point of view, we can see why employers and entrepreneurs are perhaps more eager than before or during the pandemic to get their employees all on board this summer holiday by highlighting, yet again, the importance of good time management and how it can affect not only themselves but their colleagues and the overall growth of the business.
How to improve time management for remote teams
It’s hard to establish whether some employees are naturally born with great time management skills, or whether it’s perhaps something that can be taught over several weeks or months.
Nonetheless, employers and business owners need to consider that effective time management skills during low periods of employee attendance can be a great way to keep operations running smoothly and potentially increase bottom-line performance.
As most people, and perhaps more so remote workers, are ready to travel again this summer, despite travel inflation and higher gas prices, employers need to prepare their teams effectively for minimal operational disruption.
Overview current workloads
As both an employer and team manager it’s best to start looking at the amount of work that needs to be completed. Doing a workload overview, and aligning it with the number of employees at hand during the summer months will help to determine how many new projects can be allocated to every person.
If there is more work than staff members, it’s time to start buckling down and divide tasks among people equally without overloading their capacity. Perhaps it’s even possible to schedule tasks to be completed in pairs, instead of having them completed individually.
Take into consideration the work employees are currently completing and how their workloads will be affected if more work is added. Moreso, be considerate of those employees that are out of the office or have requested time away from work. Knowing how much work is on the cards, and how much awaits does already give an indication of where you can start trimming the fat.
Cut unnecessary tasks that waste time
With fewer hands on deck, it might be time to consider how much time is being wasted on daily activities that don’t necessarily contribute to the overall output of the team.
Take for example:
- Virtual meetings
- Responding to emails
- Organizing meetings
- Setting up proposals and presentations
- Training employees for different roles
While these are all crucial elements of the overall workflow and office dynamic, they tend to take a lot of time away from employees’ schedules. Be clear about your intentions as an employer or manager, and clearly state what is expected of employees if these tasks are being kept to a minimum to help save on time and valuable resources.
Make an effort to plan
Research shows that spending between 10 and 12 minutes each day planning your day with the right scheduling apps or platforms can save a person two hours each day.
If every person on the team takes a few minutes of their day to plan, those two hours can ultimately translate into ten additional productive hours per week. For bigger companies, this might not seem like a big deal, but for small to medium-tier organizations, ten extra hours per week can mean extra sales and better revenue at the end of the month.
Talk employees through the process and the importance of planning their days and weeks, and having to use technology or digital platforms can help keep everyone informed about their workload.
Planning will help managers see where work can be allocated, and how projects are progressing, while employees and internal teams can have a clear indication of when they can expect work to come to an end, and new projects allocated.
Be effective in communicating tasks
Effective communication among team members will remain a crucial workplace skill, regardless of the office dynamic, or whether team members are working remotely or on-site.
For employees and team members, it’s important to:
- Ask for help when needed and communicate workplace needs.
- Share insights or tactics that help you work more efficiently.
- Build a communication channel between you and your colleagues and you and your manager.
- Clearly state project progress during the week or month.
- Send updates if you fall behind schedule or finish before the intended completion date.
- Be proactive with taking on more work when needed.
- Have a system that works for you, but also be open to learning new methods that work just as well.
- Plan your days and weeks to make sure you stay on schedule with everything that needs to be completed.
Employers and managers consider that:
- Not all employees work at the same pace, and some work might need to be allocated according to employee skills.
- Employees that feel easily overwhelmed will require assistance and guidance when needed.
- Employees and managers require work-life balance, so allocate enough downtime when needed.
- Respect employees’ time away from the office, this includes lunch breaks and weekends.
- Make an effort to effectively communicate with team members if problems surface.
- Give informative feedback, and support employees when they need it.
- Be proactive to motivate employees, and acknowledge the work they have done.
- Reward those employees that have sacrificed their time and skills for the business.
Good and proper communication should be non-negotiable in any remote team, especially if team members are taking time off over the summer season, traveling, or moving into a new position.
Raise awareness for important deadlines
This ties in with effectively communicating with teams. Make a habit of sharing important deadlines with team members, especially for bigger projects that require a lot more physical hours to complete.
Being sure every person is on board, and that everyone knows exactly when a deadline is due will help employees plan better, but it will also help with the flow of employees coming and leaving the office over the summer months.
As work is assigned, make sure that employees are aware of when it needs to be completed, but also that they need to pen these deadlines into their personal calendars to effectively manage to handle more than one or two work-related tasks at once.
Collaboration is important
As previously mentioned, collaboration can be a godsend in cases where teams are feeling overwhelmed, and work isn’t being completed in time. If needed, it can be in the best interest of the business, and the well-being of employees to let them collaborate on bigger tasks.
If one person is not able to do the job on their own, then employers or managers should be proactive to find a workable solution that could see better collaborative efforts among available employees.
Have team management tools
This should always come as a non-negotiable option in remote teams, but ensure that there is enough time and resources allocated to implementing the appropriate team management tools.
From tracking task progress to monitoring collaborations, and even scheduling important dates and summer office hours, the right digital management platforms can minimize employee frustration and gaps in the communication channel.
With the right tools, teams will have the ability to effectively share information, collaborate on projects, eliminate menial or mundane tasks, create work estimates, organize tasks and activities, create to-do lists, and share feedback.
Across different levels of the business, ensure that employees are well-equipped with the right management tools and that they have access to the right protocols to help make workloads feel less overwhelming.
Be forward-thinking about time management
Managing time comes with managing people. In the workplace, these two go hand in hand.
As strange as it might seem, it might be a good idea now and again to relieve employee stress by rewarding them with earlier clock-off times or later starting times. Using the same time management formula, over and over again, without success, can become a tedious and almost useless management technique.
Think of ways you can relieve people of their duties without resulting in projects falling behind their deadline or not meeting targets. Being “always on” can hurt a team’s productivity, leading to high levels of burnout among employees.
If teams can deliver tasks before their due date, time off from work or even a shorter Friday could be seen as a way to reward employees for their efforts.
It can be hard to control these small “rewards,” but ultimately, it instills in employees that they are being recognized for their work and that their well-being is taken into consideration as well.
Establish a shared understanding
There will be times when team members don’t necessarily agree, or have different opinions on specific topics. As an employer or team leader, it’s up to you to establish a shared understanding or guidelines on how the team can move forward from any conflict that might arise.
One avenue to consider is to lay specific ground rules for each team, or individual members. Giving clear and concise feedback, making an effort to share faults or where improvements can be made, or just having a general communication channel through which grievances can be resolved can already help with managing time more effectively.
Another approach would be to assist team members where they might require help, or see how minimizing certain actions could lead to less frustration among employees.
If a team has a collective understanding of what is expected of them, especially when there are fewer employees to handle increased workloads, the chances of friction are less likely to occur, but also engagement will be more effective.
Having a shared understanding of where a team is heading, what the company objectives may be, or how they will be handling certain tasks gives teams a clear guideline of how their work will help contribute to the overall success of the business.
Although we’ve mentioned that unnecessary meetings can cut into employee productivity, it’s also important to not completely rule out the importance of remote meetings, when it’s needed.
For remote teams, and perhaps any other type of workplace, meetings should have value and add to the overarching milestones the company is looking to achieve with any given project or task.
In this case, it’s important to streamline the meeting procedure, to ensure that less time is wasted on unimportant distractions, and employees can dedicate their working hours to complete the work they have been given.
Schedule meetings before or after the completion of a project to give feedback. Another thing to consider is having a checklist of topics to discuss during meetings to ensure that team members don’t derail from what is being discussed. Schedule meetings during scheduled events when all employees are available and stick to these times.
Also, be proactive about when meetings are taking place by announcing it well in advance. Instead of bombarding employees with unplanned meetings that might not directly contribute to the outcomes of their work, make sure that every person is well-informed about when a meeting might take place and what the discussion topics will be.
The more prepared employees and meeting leaders are, the faster meeting will take place, without any derailment, or discussion of unimportant information.
Effective time management is crucial to any remote team, and for businesses trying to navigate a challenging economic landscape during the summer months, having the right team on board and well-informed could perhaps be the recipe for success any organization needs.
With this in mind, employers and managers should have a strong understanding of how to manage their own time, but also that of employees while they’re on the clock. Make sure to thoroughly communicate deadlines, any particular goals, and how teams can collaborate on projects to help minimize workloads.
With the right scheduling structure, and proper employee and time management protocols, remote teams, managers, and employers will learn valuable workplace skills they can carry for the remainder of their professional careers.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Christina Morillo; Pexels; Thank you!