Balancing Employee Time Management With Flexible Work

Effective time management is a major win for companies. Try these tools and techniques to support your remote and flexible workers in achieving this.

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Balancing Employee Time Management With Flexible Work

Here's what you need to know:

  • While many remote or flexible work employees are good at staying on top of their workloads, there are always individuals who need extra support
  • To manage an employee with poor time management skills, plan for delays and reduce distractions
  • Ask employees to track their time and provide them with professional development materials
  • Break down projects into smaller goals and enable flexible work hours
  • Consider using tools to help with time management such as productivity, time management, and zero-distraction apps

Time management is tricky for both employers and their workers. In fact, 91% of people feel that better time management would reduce stress at work. But there were many more benefits listed, including:

In other words, time management is a major win. But it’s up to HR and employers to create a workplace environment that fosters better time management skills.

As an HR professional or business owner, you can implement flexible policies and provide the right tools for time tracking. And if this is difficult in an office setting, you can imagine the struggle with remote workers.

While many remote or flexible work employees are good at staying on top of their workloads, there are always individuals who need extra support. And the good news is that this additional help could actually make your job easier, too.

But before we look at the solutions, let’s consider how you can determine an employee’s efficiency based on time worked.

How to calculate employee efficiency for your staff

There’s a clear divide when employees lose productivity or efficiency due to a lack of time management skills.

Understanding an employee’s efficiency rate gives you a metric you can track when helping your worker improve.

So, let’s take a sidebar to review how to calculate employee efficiency. The formula is simple:

(Standard Project Hours / Hours Worked) x 100 = Employee Efficiency

So, for example, if a project should take 50 hours to complete, but an employee spends 80 hours on it, they are only 62% efficient. This may be due to factors outside their control — such as extensive customer revisions or a tech glitch that destroyed their earlier work.

But it could also be due to poor time management.

Regardless, understanding an employee’s efficiency rate gives you a metric you can track when helping your worker improve. It can also highlight missing data.

For example, if you’re not tracking actual hours worked for salaried employees, this might be a good time to encourage employees to use a time tracker. Guessing accurate hours will make it difficult for you and your team to gauge an employee’s real efficiency level.

How do you manage an employee with poor time management?

Managing an employee with poor time management skills can feel overwhelming and conflicting. After all, you don’t want to micromanage your workers.

Checking in with employees too often and over-directing their work process could decrease morale. And at least 55% of workers have said this behavior reduces their productivity.

Here are some tips to reduce friction while ensuring your team is as productive as possible:

1. Plan for delays

Regardless of employee time management issues, there are few excuses clients are willing to tolerate when it comes to delays and late work. It’s better to plan for the worst-case scenario, especially if you know that an employee has issues delivering on time.

2. Reduce distractions

It can also be helpful to remove common distractions from the workplace. This can include:

  • Offering programs like StayFocused to reduce time spent doom-scrolling
  • Eliminate unnecessary meetings
  • Have a “phone bin” for workers struggling to stay off their personal devices — encouraged but not required
  • Have a “quiet space” in the office to work, whether that’s a spare conference room or a designated area

3. Ask employees to track their time

There are a host of time-tracker apps available, and many task management systems have them in-built as well. While hourly workers might be already tracking their time, it’s a good policy to require all employees to do so.

Time tracking does more than keep your workers aware of how many hours they spend at their desks. It also helps them understand how long a typical task takes, which in turn, helps them organize their day.

Ultimately, time management doesn’t always have to be about being on schedule, but being more productive.

4. Provide professional development materials

Sometimes employees get stuck because they don’t have the skill set to do things quickly. Having a mentorship program or an on-demand professional development course makes it easier for employees to find what they need to finish projects more efficiently.

5. Break down projects into smaller goals

Some workers can get project paralysis if the task is too large. If this is the case, create a list of sub-tasks to make the project more manageable.

This is especially easy to accomplish with task management tools like Trello, Asana, Monday, and others. But you can also do this manually, too.

In fact, some workers benefit from having a physical task list. And if this sounds like employees you know, don’t discourage it. As long as it gets the work done on time, that’s what matters.

6. Enable flexible work hours

Let’s face it, life can be unpredictable inside and outside the office. And some employees just work better outside of office hours. Keeping and promoting a flexible work policy might just fix the time management issue for certain employees.

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What tools can you use to help with time management?

There are quite a few time management tools you can use to improve your employee’s time management skill set. But they are all a bit different. To help you find what you need, we’ve added sub-categories.

Productivity apps

A productivity app generally deals with task management. You can assign tasks, move them around on a kanban board, and communicate with employees about assignment progress. Some include time-tracking mechanisms, and some don’t.

All usually have a mobile and web version. And many have integrations to employee communication platforms like Slack or Discord.

Some top productivity apps to consider are:

  • ActiveCollab
  • Asana
  • Monday
  • Trello
  • ClickUp
  • Plutio

Time management apps

Time management apps are just what they sound like — time trackers. Some will integrate with your HR or accounting portals, and others are standalone options. Either way, it’s a good practice to ask employees to time their tasks, even if they aren’t billed by the hour.

There are a good number of these out there, but here are some of our favorites:

Zero-distraction apps

Finally, it may be best to invest in a “zero-distraction app” for employees who struggle with distraction. Depending on the program, employees will not be able to open certain websites, do certain phone activities, and more.

This should be used as a last resort or be offered as an optional perk. Forcing employees to use a zero-distraction app can easily be micromanaging.

And if you employ independent contractors, this could be inferred to be “controlling” behavior and could be potentially used against you in a misclassification lawsuit.

Some popular apps to consider are:

  • Freedom
  • Serene
  • Cold Turkey Blocker
  • Self Control
  • actiTime

More tips for employee engagement and productivity

Helping employees manage their time is just one aspect of ensuring their productivity and engagement levels are sustainable. Human resources teams and small business owners must walk a thin line between flexibility and getting things done. The right metrics, tools, and policies can help you run the business smoothly without unnecessary hassles.

That’s why we’ve designed several free and accessible resources for you to use in your day-to-day and long-term operations. For tools specific to building better employee management practices, check out these popular guides:

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