August 24, 2023
Every manager would love for their employees to be productive 100% of the time they are clocked in, but unfortunately, this is rarely the case. This has made employee time management a popular topic amongst supervisors and managers for quite some time now.
It’s estimated that employees are only productive for 3-4 hours of every 8-hour work day. Many employers may hear a statistic like this and grow anxious for all the time they’re paying in which no work is getting done.
Although this anxiety is understandable, managers and supervisors would do well to switch their mindset and look at what actually impacts productivity during the work day. Instead of trying to squeeze productivity out of every minute your staff is on the clock, develop personalized ways to support them in their time management.
Investing in time management support can have a huge impact on your company. For example, the largest 4 day work week study, conducted in the UK last year, showed us a lot about focused work hours.
Nearly two-thirds of the participating companies in the study saw an increase in employee productivity when they switched from a five-day work week to a four-day work week.
This data shows us that It’s not only the hours you’re working that impacts productivity. It’s how time is used that determines if the needle moves.
Whether you reduce your working hours or not, there are still several things you can and should be doing to support your team’s time management. Before you start implementing new tactics, try to understand the trends you’re currently experiencing.
Ask your team questions like:
- Do you feel like your job priorities are clear?
- Do you have a structure for your day?
- Are there gaps in management support?
After you’ve assessed how your team is currently performing and how they can be best supported, you can start crafting a plan to improve time management.
Depending on the needs of your team, here are 10 ideas you can try to improve employee time management:
1. Identify Individual and Team Priorities Each Day
Making sure your team is clear on what their priorities are each day can help them focus during the time they’re meant to be productive. Without this clear direction, you’ll risk hours spent staring at a screen or surfing the internet.
This can be accomplished by having a quick standing-meeting each day with your in-office team, or a morning check in via Slack. The goal should be that your team is able to self-identify what their priorities are each day, and then you as a manager can lean in to support them or validate their focus.
2. Use Personality Assessments to Define Roles
Perhaps your employees aren’t managing their time well because their roles don’t accurately reflect their strengths and interests. Using a workplace personality assessment can help you identify the best tasks to assign to each employee and build teams that work effectively together.
DISC is a popular workplace personality assessment that can help you identify the different ways people work with others. The StrengthsFinder assessment can help identify the top strengths of your team members, so you can optimize their talents where they will be most effective.
Simply shifting who is responsible for different tasks or assignments may result in naturally improved time management, while also giving you insight on how to build an effective team.
3. Use Time-Blocking Methods
Coaching your team on how to use time-blocking methods may be the key to achieving more productive work hours. The idea is that each day is divided into blocks of time, during which you will focus on a specific task or goal.
If you reach the end of the time block, you must move on to the next task whether or not you’ve finished. This incentivizes people to stay focused and complete their tasks during the allotted time.
You can always schedule a “catch up” block at the end of the day to go back to tasks you didn’t complete during the allotted time block.
4. Reduce Workplace Distractions
Sometimes reducing distractions in the workplace is all that’s needed to boost productivity and improve time management. Adding some sound proofing elements, providing noise canceling headphones, or being strategic about office placement, can help reduce the number of times your employees are pulled out of tasks they’re focusing on.
While reducing time spent on social media and socializing with coworkers can seem like a sure way to cut to more productive hours, it’s important to realize that some distractions can actually improve productivity. Taking quick mental breaks can help refresh an employee’s focus for the day. For these breaks, encourage walks around the office or time spent with pets and family if they’re working from home.
5. Provide a Time Management Tool
Providing a time management tool can be a strong way to improve time management and accountability to stay on task, but you have to make sure that proper training is provided on the tool you use.
There are tons of time-management softwares out there, but if you’re not careful, learning how to use these tools could be another time suck in its own way.
So if you want to take advantage of time-tracking or time management software, be sure you provide ample training on how the tool is used and make your expectations clear.
6. Adopt the Pomodoro Technique
Encouraging your employees to adopt the Pomodoro Technique for productivity can be another effective way to manage time.
The Pomodoro Technique is simple:
- 25 minutes of productivity
- Then take a 5-minute break
- Repeat those steps 4 times
- Then take a longer break of about 15-30 minutes
Using the Pomodoro Technique helps build a sense of urgency in your work. 25 minutes is enough to dial in and make serious headway on a task, but not enough time to allow yourself to get distracted.
Try it out yourself, then encourage your team to try it. Although it may not be the right fit for everyone, those who implement it regularly will love this focused way of approaching work.
(By the way, did you know that Pomodoro is Italian for tomato? The inventor of this technique, Francesco Cirillo, used a kitchen timer shaped as a tomato. He decided to name this popular time management method after his timer.)
7. Provide Incentives for Intense Periods of Productivity
Although you can’t always be throwing money at your employees in order to coax them into more productivity, you can think of some incentives that can help make time management a little more fun.
This is roughly the idea behind the 4-day work week. An extra day of the weekend provides enough incentive to stay focused during the first four days of the week.
Perhaps you can adopt the practice of early-release Fridays or a quarterly team building experience for the end-of-the-quarter sprint. This can help renew motivation to stay on task, while also giving them something to look forward to for their hard work.
8. Adopt SMART Goal Setting Methods
Building SMART goals into your process can be an effective way to improve clarity for your employees. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Outlining your goals in this format forces you to set checkmarks on the way to achieving a bigger goal.
When your team is given goals in a SMART format, they are easily able to track their progress and tell whether they are on task. By providing this clarity, you can trust their goals will be achieved within your desired timeframe.
9. Allow Employees to Tailor Their Own Time Management Methods
Part of being an effective manager means taking feedback from your team and allowing them to do what works best for them.
Not every employee will be a great fit for the Pomodoro Technique or time blocking. Listen to their feedback and give them space to try what works best for them. You may have to try a couple different methods of time management before finding one that works really well for their personality and work style.
This is why providing training on time management works so well. The more tools and tactics you provide for your employees, the more equipped they will be to create their own optimal time management system.
10. Create a Company Culture of Work-Life Balance
At the end of the day, your employees have to understand that you value their overall satisfaction and well-being. These two things can exist harmoniously with exceptional time-management and productivity.
Creating a culture of work-life balance will inspire your team to give their all, whether they are at home or at work. When you prioritize this balance, they are better able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you value their overall well being.
All in all, improving the time management of your employees can mean a lot of trial and error. Listening to your team, analyzing their feedback, and providing support for what they do in their jobs well will help make you a more effective manager.
Lastly, you should be setting a good example for time management yourself. When your employees see that you set strong boundaries around work and aim to be as effective as possible when you’re clocked in, it can help impact the workplace culture and positively inspire more action towards better time management. Create the plan that’s best for you and give you and your team the right tools to pull this off.