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According to the Workfront State of Work Report 2019, 58% of workers surveyed don’t have time to think beyond their daily or weekly to-do lists. With many organisations facing restricted budgets and increased productivity expectations, how can we help our workforce manage their time more efficiently?
The thing is, the issue of time management goes beyond efficiency and productivity. While these are key to ROI and may help in the board room, one of the key reasons time management is so important is employee well-being.
There, I said it. The golden or perhaps most eye-rolling word of the moment. Regardless of how you personally feel about burnout, mental health related sickness at work is rising, and there is a high chance that burnout and rising expectations have a lot to do with this.
What is important to understand is that this type of time management can’t just come from the employees themselves, it needs to be addressed at every level of an organisation.
Top-down time pressures will always be a part of working life, whether you’re working on a building site, in a supermarket, or an office environment. So, this week we’ve put together a few ideas to help relieve the pressure from employees to help reduce burnout, which will in turn increase employee engagement and reduce staff turnover.
Regardless of your role, usual daily output, and seniority within an organisation, priorities are absolutely key in managing workloads. Whether you’re determining which areas of stock management need to come first or which additional projects to tackle each day of the working week, prioritising workloads for yourself and your employees are key to ensuring the most important tasks are done.
Also, creating a priority order for tasks often enables employees to achieve more as a clear direction reduces time wasting and potential concerns/panic over a lack of understanding. When you have a long to do list in front of you, choosing where to start can be half the battle (and take up half the time), so organising that list in terms of priorities is a great way to move forward productively.
In many work environments, the ideal situation for this would be to work with a project management system which will enable you balance, prioritise, and organise multiple ongoing projects. However, if this doesn’t fit your working environment or you simply don’t have the budget, it pays to have someone who is able to oversee if not all of the ongoing projects, then at least a section of them.
In a supermarket shopfloor setting for example, this may be a team leader in charge of delegating tasks to employees, or in a small marketing team, the Manager of Head Of. Even if you are simply in charge of your own workload, scheduling in time do achieve each task at hand is a great way to get organised, and can be done much more simply if you prioritise first.
Most people work in a deadline-driven fashion. Deadlines help us to prioritise and understand a little more of the context of a piece of work. Being unclear with deadlines is a sure-fire way to ensure balls will be dropped and things will be missed. This doesn’t mean that everything needs a hard deadline of two hours from now, but it can be worth assigning each task a provisional and final deadline to enable team members to prioritise their work in a meaningful way.
As always with all of the soft skills in this series, communication is key.
Managing your time better does not mean working more hours in a day. If time management is truly improved, you should be able to achieve more in less time. A crucial part of this is allowing yourself to take regular breaks. Pop to the toilet, grab a coffee or drink of water, take a lap around the warehouse or the office. Critically, your lunch break is important. Take it.
While this may not feel like it is possible in a lot of work environments, it is critical to morale and productivity. Some organisations are even trialling four-day work weeks and seeing improvements in productivity. It is seeming more and more that productivity isn’t about the hours you spend working, but how you make those hours work.
The healthiest and most productive workplaces are the ones in which employees feel comfortable saying no. This doesn’t mean encouraging conflict (although if it does happen, here is our guide to reducing conflict and improving teamwork) or refusing to do any work. What this means is checking in with your boss if you’re definitely needed in the meeting, saying no to overtime if you need a day off, and gently declining additional responsibility if you are already struggling to meet your current deadlines.
Presenteeism and being a “yes” person/people-pleaser can greatly contribute to burnout and decrease both morale and productivity. It’s important to encourage a culture of open communication and setting boundaries within your organisation.
Work in an office job? You probably know this feeling all too well. It is so easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of your emails. Say you were out for a meeting with a client one afternoon or you had a whole week off. Suddenly you have hundreds of emails in your inbox, or maybe you’re just particularly popular on a certain day.
Spending too much time in your inbox is a certain killer of productivity and can disrupt priorities, schedules, and break down important boundaries you’d already set. If you find yourself getting stuck in this cycle, we’d recommend setting specific times of the day to respond to emails (unless marked urgent). If something needs doing now, chances are someone will pick up the phone or speak to you in person.
Similarly to setting boundaries, don’t be afraid to ask questions when a task is given to you. Do you have all of the information you need to complete the task? If not, who can you go to for help? Context is everything. Employees will typically complete tasks to a higher standard if they understand why they are doing it and how it fits into a bigger picture.
The culture of your workplace will largely define how open this communication is. For example, here at Kallidus we believe there is no such thing as a stupid question and it’s something we encourage right from the interview stage of recruitment. Our employees need information in order to do their jobs to the highest standard.
Time management can be a very personal thing and is a key part of our soft skills series, but it’s also important to lead by example at an organisational level.