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Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

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Workflow Improvements

A typical eight-hour workday includes about three hours of work spent on personal or unnecessary tasks. Or, to put that another way, every week, 15 hours are wasted on non-productive tasks.

Managing workflow improvements and efficiency procedures can help you eliminate these timewasters. However, just be aware that it’s impossible to avoid every delay completely. But, hey. We’ll take what we can.

But, what are some ways you can implement these changes? Below are five workflow improvements to add to your calendar to increase productivity.

How Do Wasted Hours Affect Productivity?

When we spend more time on admin tasks, we lose valuable productivity time. Because of this wasted time, meaningful, project-related work is reduced. What’s more, administration tasks divert attention from more important work. Even worse, when we’re occupied with these tasks, this causes us to focus and drains our energy.

As if that weren’t bad enough, these repetitive and mundane activities aren’t t intellectually stimulating. That might not sound like a biggie. But, that can make you fill unfilled and unsatisfied. Which, of course, will hinder your productivity.

And, if you think that’s tough on you, just imagine what it does to your team if you’re a leader. Just like you, they want to get more done in less time. But, they also want to dedicate their time and energy to be productive, not just busy.

Basically, all of these wasted hours significantly impact a company’s productivity. So, from the top-down, everyone will be more productive if they invest more time in project-related work. And when everyone’s engaged, this leads to greater satisfaction and productivity.

Causes of Reduced Workflow Efficiency

Because workflows have many moving parts, a simple change in one part can affect the whole structure and stymie your organizational progress.

Listed below are some causes of slow workflow, both within teams and organizations as a whole.

Tasks that are irrelevant or unproductive.

If your operations change due to internal factors or external circumstances, you might find that some parts of your workflow are no longer necessary.

When these tasks are not removed, they become bottlenecks in your workflow, consuming resources that could have been spent on more productive procedures, and stagnating work in the long run.

Lack of coordination of information.

Every functional workflow relies on information since it facilitates insight into where your work is at, what factors apply, and what steps you need to take to keep delivering results now, and in the future.

Because information flow isn’t managed intelligently in workflows, you and your team members will spend more time locating the relevant information instead of actually getting work done.

Team management is disorganized.

If your team members do not know which part of the workflow they should be working on and have no idea who to consult in case of an issue, a large pool of personnel will go unused.

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

In the workplace, unclear and unnecessary tasks are top time-wasters, as are long meetings and unclear assignments. However, these problems can be reduced by putting the proper tools in place.

At the same time, streamlining your workflow procedures doesn’t happen overnight. But it will save you money and time in the long run if you put in the effort today.

But, where do you start when it comes to workflow improvement? Well, the most glaring would be reviewing and analyzing your current workflow. Doing so will help you spot any bottlenecks so that you fix them.

Another obvious suggestion? Leaning on automation tools for recurring and tedious tasks. And, if working with others, you definitely need collaboration tools.

Outside of these noticeable workflow improvements, here are five new ones to focus on.

1. Align Your Most Important Work With Your Chronotype

.“Your chronotype is just a fancy way of saying ‘your body clock,” explains Amantha Imber, founder of behavioral science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work. We all follow this natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness. “Everyone has a unique chronotype, and it influences the peaks and troughs of energy we feel throughout our days.”

“Around 10% of people are stereotypical larks, who feel most energetic in the mornings,” explains Imber. “At the other end of the spectrum are the 20% of the population who are owls, or people who do their best work at night.” As a result, we tend to spring into action in the morning, have a power lull after lunch, and end the day with a bang.

You can achieve more by paying attention to your chronotype and planning your priorities around your energy peaks, suggests Dan Pink, author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.”

“On days I plan to write, I do it in the mornings, when I’m most alert,” he told Imber. “I set myself a word count, and I won’t do anything until I hit it.” Furthermore, he won’t use his phone in the office or check his email. “Once I’ve hit my goal, I’m free to do other things.” Instead, pink uses his morning energy to focus on his work and avoid distractions.

He tends to stay focused on doable tasks during his afternoon energy slump. For example, he answers emails or files documents.

When you’re most productive, lock in your priorities first in your calendar. Then, after tackling your preferences, you’ll have the momentum and energy to breeze through your remaining responsibilities.

2. Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is never an efficient way of spending your time, even if it might seem so in the moment,” explains Deanna Ritchie in another Calendar article.

“When we multitask, we rapidly switch between multiple tasks, which expends brainpower, takes energy, and reduces our productivity,” Deanna explains.

Most people who boast that they can multitask effectively don’t realize that they are actually less efficient at solving many tasks at once than they are at completing one task at a time.

You should ask yourself how efficient you want to be whenever you find yourself wanting to multitask. You should be aware of the time and effort you need to devote to specific tasks. These tasks may require you to take time away from other tasks so you can devote your undivided attention to these tasks.

“When you stop multitasking and begin focusing entirely on a single task at one time, you’ll see your productivity increase,” she adds.

3. Get Organized

In my opinion, this can be a broad workflow as it encompasses both the big and the small.

For example, you could block out 10-minutes at the end of the workday to clean organize your workspace. You could also go through your inbox, update your to-do list, or revise your calendar for the week.

You will see a long-term improvement in your workflow if you eliminate this small amount of clutter.

On the bigger side of organization, you need to establish an effective organizational system. It’s a simple way for you and your team to save time when looking for documents and resources. Moreover, you can keep your team on task by implementing organizational strategies and data management systems.

I would also suggest assigning clear deadlines to both you and your team. Again, this will keep everyone on the same page and prevent hiccups. Ideally, you would use a team calendar so that everyone can view upcoming tasks and projects.

4. Schedule a ShipIt Day

The Atlassian Company developed the concept of letting employees work on any project for 24 hours. Employees become motivated when they have the chance to do something they are passionate about when creativity is encouraged in this way. After completing their task for the day, employees return to work feeling accomplished and motivated.

Even if you aren’t leading a team, you can still apply this concept. For instance, you could schedule a ShipIt on Fridays. Why? Because most of us are spent by the end of the week. And, for some, having a 4-day work week can increase your efficiency and workflow.

5. Keep Calm and Workflow On

It is only possible for your workflows to remain cutting edge if you prioritize analyzing them regularly and finding out what works, what doesn’t, and what to improve.

To achieve workflow efficiency, you must;

  • Plan your workflow for manual review,
  • Monitor your issue tracking workflows constantly,
  • As needed, refine your workflows
  • Make sure your workflow can continue to meet your targets by testing and improving.

To get more done with less, it’s easier to eliminate unnecessary steps and focus on what it takes to improve your workflow.

Where does your calendar come into play here? To ensure that you don’t forget to continually review and improve your workflow, add this to your calendar ASAP. How often? That’s up to you. But, for newer workflow improvements, I wouldn’t go more than a month.

However, you can schedule this as a quarterly or annual task in most cases.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

How to Keep Your Employees Better Connected

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How to Keep Employees Better Connected

The next time you’re at the park, pick up a twig and snap it with your hands. Pretty easy to do, right? Now gather up a group of sticks and try to do the same thing. You’ll find it a lot harder to break even one of the sticks now that they are gathered in a group.

This same concept can be applied to your workforce. When employees are better connected, they are much more difficult to break. They can overcome nearly any difficulty together and keep productivity at maximum capacity with a combination of trust, communication, and teamwork.

The question now is, how do you help your employees become better connected? Every person and team is different, but the following tips should help you to improve the sense of connection in your workplace over time:

Improve Your Onboarding Process

Employee connection starts with the onboarding process. This process includes all of the actions you take to acclimate new members of your team to the company. With a proper onboarding process, even your newest employees can feel connected to the team from day one.

One method you can consider is a mentorship program. This assigns a tenured employee to the new hire to help answer their questions, complete training, and simply be a new friend in the workplace. New employees will start off with a work buddy they can rely on and communicate with as they become more familiar with their new position and get to know the rest of the team.

Stay Connected Online

Keeping team members connected was a struggle many companies encountered during the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. With entire organizations sheltering in place, there were no more team lunches, water cooler convos, or other daily interactions that occur naturally in an office space. What to do?

Managers and leaders got creative by using software programs to keep their employees connected online. This was primarily done through videoconference meetings that allowed teams to connect even while working from home. Perhaps the most value, though, was found through specialized apps such as project management software. These tools kept teams in sync and provided text channels for sharing documents, updates, and even some silly images.

The beauty of these software applications is that they can be used just as effectively by in-office teams as remote ones. Employees can send quick messages without having to get up from their desks, whether it’s to ask a simple question or share a laugh during the workday.

Meet Outside of Work

Full-time employees spend roughly 40 hours a week at their place of work, whether that’s in-office or remote. That’s a significant portion of their lives. The people they work with become more than just co-workers; they’re almost like an extended family. To make sure your work family continues to get along, plan some opportunities for them to connect outside of the work environment.

Common events companies will put together include team luncheons and dinners. Everyone appreciates a good meal on the house, but such gatherings also allow co-workers to spend time together and talk about more than just work. This allows teammates to form deeper relationships as they get to know their colleagues’ personal interests.

There are so many options you can consider here. Take your employees and their families to the water park on a summer weekend. Rent out a movie theater for an evening or organize a game night. As long as everyone is there and having fun, it should be a win in your book.

Hire for Soft Skills

An underrated aspect of team connectivity is hiring the right type of people. There are certain individuals who just aren’t compatible with others, and they can really get your team out of sync. Prioritizing soft skills when you hire people will help with that.

When interviewing an applicant, assessing their communication skills and personality traits can be just as important as combing through their résumé. One of your candidates might not boast the most experience, but they could be a fast learner and have a positive impact on the office culture.

Be very careful when making these sorts of decisions, though, as you don’t want to fall prey to bias. You shouldn’t automatically dismiss a job candidate just because you don’t immediately feel comfortable with them. Make sure you ask all candidates the same questions and give them the same assessments to ensure you’re evaluating each contender fairly. Your goal should be a diverse group of contributors who can work harmoniously together, not a team full of Mini-Mes.

Embrace Spontaneity

Even the best leaders can fall victim to micromanagement from time to time. You may be accidentally quelling some team connection without even realizing it. Sure, you want your employees to work hard, but sometimes embracing the spontaneity of certain moments can lead to greater productivity in the future.

For instance, the first reaction a manager might have to a group chit-chatting in the break room is to tell everyone to get back to work. At times this will be necessary, such as stopping inappropriate behavior or restarting work that has been brought to a standstill for too long. However, allowing your employees to converse at least relatively freely allows them to connect and build relationships that will be helpful for future collaboration.

The benefits of improved employee connectivity are pretty plain to see. Start building those connections within your organization today, and by the end of 2022, you should see a positive difference.

Image Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko; Pexels; Thank you!

4 Recommendations for Teams in 2022

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Recommendations Teams 2022

The mixed work model will likely be commonplace throughout 2022 and well into the future, so we may as well get used to it and learn to do it well. Consider these suggestions to help you create a great mixed-team work approach.

COVID brought on the full-hybrid work model, and as long as it continues to work well, it will likely be the work model forever. Teams will experience growing pains until hybrid work can work out the kinks and become the norm. While no one technique works for all individuals, positions, or projects — consider these suggestions. Creating a productivity schedule is crucial.

Develop the hybrid work model with your company.

There is no one-size-fits-all hybrid work paradigm; it must match your organization’s culture and personnel. The key to success is co-creating that model with your team and providing communication avenues and expectations.

Avoid making top-down judgments with your hybrid worker without consulting a few team members. All decisions, no matter how small, immediately affect your employees. Ask about employee preferences and attempt to fulfill them. Take time to listen to individual needs so that discontent and anger don’t erode your culture and morale.

1. Agree on the office’s role in the hybrid environment.

Consider which structures work best for your team. Take care of your workers, and they will care for your consumers. Popular hybrid work arrangements include remote-first with office days or office-first with remote days. Some firms only meet in person once a month — but your very individual business needs will have to dictate many of your decisions.

Agree on the office’s role in the hybrid environment. Is it to encourage cooperation or relationships? Collect everyone’s ideas and don’t simply go back to work because that’s what you used to do. Alternatives to your enormous, unoccupied workplace may also benefit your yearly budget.

2. Trust your staff

Let people work in ways that make them happy and productive.

Set goals and deadlines for your team instead of time monitoring. It’s challenging to be productive and present when working remotely. However, measures should not be considered a punishment but a tool to help personnel achieve their objectives.

Most employees don’t work the eight hours they’re at the office because they have spontaneous meetings and strong connections with coworkers. Consider: managers should ignore time as a productivity indicator and trust staff to accomplish their jobs well. Time as an indicator is a sign that the objectives are too simple and that the workers are distant since they don’t need to cooperate as much or “look busy.”

Otherwise, you risk the “watermelon effect” — excellent “green” performance, but a significant chunk of red underneath the surface, representing an awful employee experience. Employees may address issues with coworkers rather than management at the (virtual) water cooler.

3. Meetings: rethink

Don’t be a victim of your success.

We need to discover new working methods to not spend all our time in meetings and our weekends and nights on “serious work.” So we need more asynchronous work.

Adopt a facilitator’s approach to developing new working ways — concentrate on understanding human interactions and structuring work to fit them best.

Asking check-in and check-out questions helps to keep meetings sociable. Having off-topic talks and connecting with people is vital.

4. Foster connections and interactions

Consider alternatives like walk & talks, virtual coworking, music quizzes, open office hours, and buddy systems.

During their initial weeks or months at the organization, a “work buddy” meets with new workers one-on-one to facilitate a seamless transition.

This allows for knowledge exchange and learning even while working remotely. Younger workers who rely on senior staff for information appreciate this exchange.

Encourage your staff to plan walking meetings or catch-ups with one other. Walk & Talks help you exercise and interact with others. Plus, they help alleviate our collective Zoom fatigue.

Leaders and workers may add open (virtual) office hours to their calendars or status bars to encourage more spontaneous talks. During specific time windows, anybody may phone that individual to bounce ideas off, discuss a problem, or check in.

Virtual coworking allows people to work together yet on their projects. A group video conference is great for collaborating on separate tasks. People feel more accountable and productive when cameras and microphones are on.

Having the appropriate tools helps to facilitate teamwork.

There will be an issue with your team when you introduce information or tools that:

a) team doesn’t grasp the purpose of and

b) tool doesn’t enhance the team workflows or productivity.

Also, the tools must easily integrate synchronous and asynchronous operations. Tools and admin for their own sake are harmful, so giving people the correct tools and listening to their comments goes a long way. If tools aren’t helpful after a long test period, destroy them. Don’t utilize them because it’s tradition.

Teams in hybrid mode

Balance is essential since individuals have varying amounts of energy while socializing. You don’t want your staff exhausted or lonely. Using these suggestions might assist your employees in shifting to the hybrid model in a manner that seems so natural you’ll soon be calling it work.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

5 Ways to Improve Office Communication

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At work and in life, communication is key. Open, efficient lines of communication make companies more productive and keep employees happy. Twisted or broken ones produce mistakes and burnout.

But good communication is about more than talking to each other regularly. To communicate well, companies need clear processes and effective tools. Here’s where to start:

1. Minimize drop-in chats.

What’s wrong with walking down to a co-worker’s office to ask a quick question? Not only does it interrupt what he or she is working on, but it tends to spiral into unrelated conversation. As important as the outcome of last night’s game is, it’s irrelevant to work.

Encourage your employees to reduce the small talk by using Slack for small questions and comments. For longer conversations, or those that require multiple people, schedule a meeting. Small talk can be healthy for office relationships, but precious work time can quickly go down the drain when employees are visiting each other’s work spaces throughout the day.  

2. Share calendars.

The practice of sharing calendars allows employees to schedule meetings with each other and gain insight into their co-workers’ projects and daily schedules. Many calendar apps allow workers to share tasks, view what’s been completed by each party, and send messages back and forth.

To choose the best online calendar for your business, take into account usability, integrations, and features. Look for a low-cost or free option that provides insight into who you’re spending your work time with. If you work across time zones, be sure your calendar can automatically adjust the time depending on where each user is. 

3. Send out meeting agendas ahead of time.

Meetings can be valuable, and face-to-face communication is still the foundation of strong relationships. But without a clear agenda, meetings can run long or be dominated by side conversations.

At least a day in advance of each meeting, compile an agenda and send it out ahead of time. Ensure everyone knows what the meeting’s goal is, who is involved, and what they might need to bring to the table. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for fun in meetings, but an agenda helps you respect your workers’ time by making the best use of it. 

4. Encourage personal relationships.

Efficiency is hugely important for good communication, but do not let it get in the way of office camaraderie. Carve out time for your employees to get to know one another on a personal level. Host office lunches and holiday parties. If a meeting involves new faces, do a brief icebreaker activity at the start.

The better your employees know each other as individuals, the better they will be able to communicate with each other and work as a team. If anyone feels left out, the whole team’s efficiency will suffer. 

5. Avoid over-communication.

We’ve all had the experience of coming back to work after a few days out of the office and having 1,000 unread emails in our inbox. Not only does going through those take time, but it adds unnecessary stress and risks miscommunications. With over 281 emails sent and received every day around the globe, over-communication is a real risk.

Be careful not to create an environment where people’s inboxes are constantly flooded with unnecessary or irrelevant messages. Instead of sending out multiple informational emails throughout the week, perhaps you can send out one concise weekly email that summarizes the team’s progress.

Be sure, too, to consider your audience. Does everyone on your team need the information you’re sending? It’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate, but your workers will start to tune out mass quantities of emails in their inboxes. 

The same principle holds true for meetings. To the best of your ability, invite only the people to each meeting that need the information you’re presenting. Present only the information that those people need. 

Poor communication is frustrating and costly. Be a model of good communication. Put the right processes in place, and you’ll achieve that ideal blend of efficiency and strong relationships.

5 Surefire Tactics for Boosting Employee Productivity

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As a leader, it can be easy to let the morale of an office slip away. However, to get it back, it’s not as hard as you think. And if one thing’s for certain it’s that happy employees translate to a more productive work environment, and thus, a thriving business. The core of every business is its employees. That’s why, as a leader, it’s more important than ever to go the extra mile when it comes to boosting employee productivity. Of course, you can’t expect every employee to be at peak productivity every hour of the day, but there are things you can do to help them get there. From implementing incentive programs to organizing social outings, take the time to develop ways to motivate employees — you’ll thank yourself later.

To learn more, here are five surefire tactics for boosting employee productivity around the office.

1. Give regular feedback.

Feedback is critical to the success of a company — and that doesn’t just mean feedback to employees, but from them too. Developing a comfortable work environment that fosters open communication, honesty and two-way feedback will help make your entire company more effective and productive. Regularly giving feedback provides guidance, an opportunity to learn and makes people feel valued. When employees know they can also give feedback to their managers, this helps to develop a more cohesive team. In an earlier Gallup survey, 67 percent of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, while only 31 percent of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses said this. Of course, while not all feedback is good, be sure to balance the negatives with positives.

2. Organize social outings.

Work hard, play hard. And that applies to the office too. One of the best ways to boost employee morale and productivity is by spending some time outside of the office. Get to know your employees as individuals and not just employees. Organizing social outings is a great team-building tactic. This will also get your employees away from their desk and give them some time to recharge. Recreational sports, retreats and happy hours are only a few ideas to get your employees mingling and getting to know each other. According to an article published in Inc., “Work performance depends on recreational activities — or at least, can be boosted with it.”

3. Implement incentive programs.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest motivators for most employees is money. That’s why offering incentives with awards in the form of money typically boost employee performance by 22 percent, according to a large-scale study by the Incentive Research Foundation. Not only that, but these monetary incentives, on average, boost team performance by a whopping 44 percent. Of course, it depends on how you create and implement an incentive program. The study also found that longer-term programs outperformed shorter-term programs.

4. Offer flexible work options.

Flexible work options are not only a great way to boost employee productivity, but also job commitment and happiness. A recent study analyzed and compared employee well-being at a Fortune 500 company over a nine-month period where half of the employees were given flexible work options, while the other half kept their regular 9-to-5 office hours. In the end, employees with flex schedules were happier at work and less prone to burnout than their 9-to-5 counterparts. They also found employees with flexibility to be sick less often, achieve more and work longer hours.

5. Celebrate the small wins.

Everyone likes to be recognized for something positive they’ve done, whether it’s big or small. However, despite size, every success should be celebrated. In an article published on Harvard Business Review, researchers examined what motivates people and the answer was simple: progress. When employees know they are progressing at work in some way, even if it is just the slightest bit, they will in turn be happier, more motivated and continue to keep up the great performance. That’s why celebrating the small wins is an effective tactic to help employees feel like they are progressing. Which in turn will boost performance and productivity.
Originally published here.

4 Ways You Can Improve Teamwork

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Regardless of how talented your individual team members are, you won’t get very far if they don’t work cohesively. As the business owner or manager, it’s your job to implement strategies that will improve teamwork. When your team works together, trust begins to build and responsibilities become clear. A healthy team knows how to be honest with one another even if it means putting forth harsh criticisms.

That all said, here are seven ways you can improve teamwork in your company.

Establish a clear team mission.

This applies to your overall company mission, and the mission of each project you kick off with your team. It may take five, ten, even twenty years to build a successful company. During that time, you may kick off projects that drag on for months if not a year. Regardless of what stage you’re in, you need to establish a clear team mission. If you can paint the big picture and align everyone with the same goals, your team will be motivated and productive.

Create a reporting infrastructure.

In every organization there will be problems. The last thing you want is to have an employee sit on an issue and not have anyone they can report to. On the flip side, you also don’t want that employee to gripe about their problems every time they arise. The best way to handle this is by creating a reporting infrastructure. First and foremost, you need every team member to understand their roles and to whom they report issues to. If there is a disagreement, there needs to be a process in which that issue gets discussed. Last but not least, you need to decide which members of the team make the final call. Establishing these ground rules is key to improving overall teamwork.

Make the right hires.

While this one sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many managers fill roles with unqualified employees. The problem is, most hiring managers overlook the importance of personality fit. A fancy resume and a proven track record may look good on paper, but if they don’t get along with the rest of the team what’s the point? As you go through your interviews you need to focus on both skill and personality qualifications. If they seem promising, you should always throw them in the mix and let them work amongst the team for a few days. If things don’t work out, try shifting things around or look for another candidate.

Build relationships outside of the workplace.

In order to build honest and lasting relationships you need to encourage team bonding outside of the workplace. Work can get stressful, and that stress can really weigh down on people. Instead of trying to fix things at the office, take your team out to lunch or organize a team field trip. Not only will this give your team a breath of fresh air, it’ll give them the chance to get to know each other on a personal level. One great option is to have your team join a sports league together. First and foremost, health and fitness is as popular as it’s ever been. Second, team sports is one of the best ways to build team chemistry. For tech companies, there are plenty of sports leagues you can join where you compete against other companies. This way you can network, exercise, and foster teamwork all at the same time! At the end of the day, building teamwork takes time – so it’s in your best interest to start now. For starters, use the four strategies above so you can improve teamwork.
Originally published here.
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