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Should You Ask Your Team to Track their Time?

By | Time Management | No Comments
The 11 Biggest Symptoms of Poor Time Management

For those working in professional services, like lawyers, consultants, advertising specialists and anyone else who has clients, time tracking is inevitable. Billable hours are billable hours, and poor time tracking can lead to some angry clients.

What about everyone else, the working professionals who do not necessarily need to track every minute of their workday? 

As entrepreneurs love to say, time is money: Is the time spent tracking time worth the squeeze?

Why Track Time?

1. Improved efficiency and accountability

Probably the greatest argument for time tracking is that it makes workers accountable and efficient. If someone knows they have to track what they are doing, they are likely to put more effort into getting things done in a timely manner. They’ll probably also block their time to make the process easier.

Time blocking is a time-management technique that encourages practitioners to estimate how much time a certain task will take them, and then carve out that exact chunk of time to complete the task. This prevents multitasking and procrastination, and it sometimes produces a better finished product. 

2. Insights into employee development

Time tracking isn’t just helpful to the boss. Employees who engage in it benefit, too.

When workers see where they’re spending their time, they tend to spot opportunities for improvement. Are they a faster writer than an editor? Are they spending too much time building out certain product features? Is one stage of the sales process taking longer than it should?

Time tracking also helps workers showcase their contributions. An employee who has  documentation of working long hours, taking on an extra-heavy workload, or going beyond their job description will have an easier time asking for a raise. Similarly, tracking time makes it easier to ask a supervisor for extra help or delegatory authority. 

3. Data to support company goals

Employee time is a company’s most important asset. Examining where it’s spent helps leaders identify priorities for the next month, quarter, or year.

If you do decide employees should track their time, compile it into a single spreadsheet. Look at the proportion of company time spent in key areas, like sales and product development.

Think about whether those investments line up with your priorities: Should a third of company time actually be spent on sales? Or should a larger slice of it go to things like culture-building and mentorship?

Before you decide the tracking time is right for you, though, think about its cons. 

The Problems With Tracking Time

What are the downsides of asking employees to log their hours? The four primary ones are:

1. Rushed work

Asking employees to state the time they spend on each task may cause them to give short shrift to tasks that deserve some TLC. Work that was done too quickly is likely to contain a lot of mistakes.

Some work simply takes time. In a creative field like advertising, it’s worth taking a few extra days to think through a campaign. Otherwise, the damage won’t be obvious until it’s already out in the public eye. 

2. Time lost on tracking

In a perfect world, time would be tracked on an “as you go” basis. The fact is, though, that time tracking is often the easiest task to push to the back burner.

Expect employees to put it off. Come Friday afternoon when the timesheet is due, many may spend an hour trying to think through how they spent the past five days. Employees are so bad at tracking time, in fact, that the average firm loses around $50,000 per year in revenue due to mistracked emails alone. 

3. “What category do I put my bathroom break in?”

Nobody wants to ask about how to track their human needs, which may cause workers to ignore them. Not only can that hurt morale, but studies suggest it can actually hurt productivity.

Researchers studying interruptions to prolonged sitting found that periodic movement helps to lift mood, combat dry eyes, and reduce fatigue. Even if employees do track when they get up for coffee to use the bathroom, employers are likely to discount the productivity benefits those breaks provide. 

4. A sense of distrust

One of the most common arguments against time tracking is that it creates feelings of distrust among employees. Given that nearly two in three employees already distrust their leader, think carefully about whether time tracking would perpetuate the problem.

So should you ask your team to track their time? There’s no clear answer, unfortunately. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and remember: You can always change your policy if it isn’t working like you thought it would. 

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

By | Business Tips | No Comments
3 Things to Keep in Mind When Setting Holiday Hours

 As I visit different stores to do my Christmas shopping, I always wonder how different companies decide when they will be open during the holidays. 

I see some stores and companies shut down for a few days, or even a couple weeks as the year comes to a close. Others seem not to skip a beat and remain open all the way through Christmas and the New Year. 

Setting holiday hours is a matter of balancing competing needs: On one hand, it’s important to respect employees’ need for work-life balance. On the other, don’t you want to maximize the time your customers can spend in store?

So what should your holiday hours be? That’s up to you; make the call with these considerations in mind:

1. Holiday rushes happen.

Although you should set regular hours for most of the year, your holiday schedule needn’t be set in stone. Sometimes it’s best to be flexible on certain weeknights or over the weekend to take advantage of big shopping rushes. 

A business that chooses to stay open for even 30 more minutes on a few nights during the Christmas season stands to benefit when competitors are closed. Earn enough, and you might be able to give everyone a few extra days off. 

2. Your customers have similar shopping habits.

Of course, you still want to predict busy periods when you can. Don’t just sit around and try out different things: Talk to your customers.

You sell one set of products to similar audiences: Chances are, those customers have similar shopping habits. When do they want to shop? What products should you be sure are stocked during those periods?

Ask, too, about incentives. Is there anything else you could use to draw them in? Are there certain deals your competitors are offering?

3. Your staff has holiday plans.

It’s a busy time for everyone during the holidays. Family members come in to town, there are plenty of activities for kids, and travel is common during the week between Christmas and New Years.

One way to honor your staff’s holiday plans without losing out on sales? Build your holiday schedule around the hours that your team is most motivated and productive. Morning hours might be a smart bet, when most people’s energy levels are higher. 

What if you run a restaurant or other service that people tend to visit at night? In that case, you stay open only at night. You’ll keep your servers and bartenders busy, giving them ample opportunities to collect more tips from generous customers.

Making the Call

As 2020 approaches, it’s natural to want to celebrate. But before closing up shop, remember that you’ve got visitors who are checking their list twice and thinking of you. 

Staying flexible with your hours to accommodate shoppers is a powerful way to boost your bottom line. It can make you a bigger name in your community, put some extra cash in your staff’s pocket, and ensure everyone gets the gifts they want. 

So what should your holiday hours be? Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all schedule. Be flexible, check with your team, and ask your customers. Soon enough, the answer will present itself.

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