How to improve employee time management to boost productivity

Time hacking, improving efficiencies, boosting productivity: Whatever way you put it, there’s no denying it can help your small business improve results, save money, reduce burnout, and decrease stress.

Effective time management is central to running a smooth, successful operation. But if you or your employees are struggling with time management already, finding a way to break the cycle and claw back those precious hours can feel overwhelming.

That’s why we’re here to help, so you can put a new plan in place to boost employee time management and maximize productivity. Below, we explain:

  • The benefits of time management at work, for employers, managers, and employees
  • 7 tips for effective time management
  • Simple ways to start training your employees on time management

We also explore how using small business management software can increase efficiencies across your entire operation, and make implementing effective time management techniques even easier.

What are the benefits of time management at work?

A view of a company using Homebase’s tools for time tracking and management.
Effective time management improves work quality, staff engagement, and can reduce costs. Source: Homebase

As the saying goes, someone who knows “how” will always work for someone who also knows “why.” So before we dig into how to improve time management at work let’s take a quick look at why it’s worth doing.

For employers and managers

Improving time management at work benefits employers and managers because it:

  • Ensures a better quality of work. People tend to work better if they have certain time constraints to get tasks done and remain focused for shorter amounts of time.
  • Reduces stress and deadline delays. Effective working means that deadlines don’t pile up, meaning fewer bottlenecks and delays, and less stress over missed tasks. 
  • May reduce hourly wage costs. This is because your staff get better work done in less time, so depending on your business or sector, you may be able to pay for fewer hours.
  • May reduce salary costs. If each worker is more efficient, you’ll need to hire fewer salaried staff members.
  • Improves your reputation and output. Keeping to deadlines looks more professional and will raise clients’ and would-be clients’ perceptions of your brand.
  • Reduces turnover and hiring costs. Employees feel more engaged, driven, happier, and have a better work-life balance, so they’ll stay longer, work better, and avoid burnout.
  • Better strategy, planning, and outcomes. With less time spent “in” your business, you’ll have more time to work “on” your business, including focusing on strategy, goals, and performance.

For employees

Improving time management at work benefits employees because it:

  • Improves productivity, reduces procrastination, and boosts engagement. Employees feel more focused, happy, and driven; and are more satisfied with their higher-quality work.
  • Enables career progression. Completing high-quality work on time shows trustworthiness, consistency, and dedication to the role, which employers should appreciate and reward.
  • Better work-life balance. If employees do their work within a reasonable time, they will have more space and time to spend on non-work activities. This will improve their happiness levels, prevent burnout, and improve their performance when they are working.

7 tips for employee time management

So now we know the why, let’s explore the how. These are concrete actions you can take to start implementing new time management processes in your small business workplace

1. Use a time tracking tool

A view of the Homebase GPS-enabled time clock.Source: Homebase
With Homebase, almost any digital device can be used as a time clock. Source: Homebase

They say you can’t improve what you can’t measure, so the first step in improving your employees’ time management skills should be to take accurate records of the hours they’re working in the first place.

Using a time clock app enables staff to keep accurate records of their work time, so they can see how long tasks are taking, and work to improve their time management. It also lets you see if there are any tasks that take longer, or if any staff members need a little more support in staying on track. 

Software like Homebase also lets you set up automatic reminders for staff to take breaks and meals, so they are aware of time passing, know they have limited time to get work done, and ensure they’re entitled to regular breaks. This can help them do more work in shorter periods, and work more efficiently. And it helps control labor costs, as you only pay for hours worked.

Homebase also includes anti-buddy punching tools, timesheets, and payroll features, which enable you to calculate employee wages accurately and manage all aspects of timekeeping effectively.

2. Opt for a work schedule that suits your personal preferences

A view of the Homebase scheduling tool.Source: Homebase
Homebase’s scheduling tools let you choose and plan a schedule that works for you. Source: Homebase

There are a number of ways to allocate shifts in your small business, so it makes sense to choose an employee scheduling system that works best for your goals and budget.

For example, in a restaurant, you could implement a split shift system. This means you can schedule employees to work two shifts per day, separated by a gap of at least four hours.

Doing this saves time and money in low periods (such as after lunch but before the dinner service), and ensures staff are busy and productive during the times that you really need them. They may also appreciate having the time off in the “middle” of their workday, perhaps to run errands, pick up their kids, or head to the gym.

However, sometimes split shifts are unpopular with staff as they spread their workday over a longer period overall, so be sure to choose your work schedule with caution and be mindful of what will actually work best for your employees as well as your business.

A platform like Homebase also lets you send scheduling notifications to staff so they are reminded of upcoming work, and avoid late arrivals or missed shifts that could have a negative effect on time management.

3. Reduce workplace distractions

A clock on a table in a store.
Keep distractions to a minimum to give staff the best chance of getting high-quality work done in good time. Source: Hao Feng / Unsplash

It’s difficult to work effectively and manage time responsibly if you’re being distracted every 10 seconds. Research shows that it takes you more than 23 minutes to regain your focus after getting distracted, and can decrease productivity by up to 40%.

So as much as you can, try to reduce workplace distractions to keep staff focused on-task. This doesn’t have to mean imposing punitive measures like not allowing smartphones, or limiting staff conversation.

Instead, depending on your business and workplace, it could include:

  • Asking staff to keep their phones on silent during working hours
  • Not allowing phone or computer use except for work tasks during certain times
  • Cutting down on interruptions, for example, using email or messaging instead of phone calls
  • Assigning staff to specific sections or tasks, so they don’t have to keep switching
  • Keeping meetings to a minimum length and staying on-task as much as possible
  • Reducing nuisance noises or lights where possible
  • Having fair-but-firm rules on loud music, loud conversation, phone calls, or outside visitors
  • Allowing each staff member to schedule their own “focus hours” in their calendar
  • Ensuring dress codes are fair, professional, and safe to minimize distractions
  • Providing staff with all the protective items or important tools they need to do their job well

4. Discuss and address time management issues during team meetings

A team holding a relaxed meeting.
Take an encouraging, rather than punitive, mindset when it comes to sharing and discussing time management with your team in meetings. Source: Andreea Avramescu / Unsplash

Use workplace check-ins and meetings as opportunities to share your time management goals and tools with staff, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to efficiencies and timekeeping. 

Encourage team members to share efficiency techniques—like, say, the Pomodoro technique (working in 25-minute sprints with five-minute breaks), or setting mini-deadlines.

Use your timesheet records to highlight any areas where staff could be more efficient, and be sure to ask any staff who appear to be struggling what they need to improve.

Platforms like Homebase let workers leave shift notes when they clock in and out, giving them an opportunity to flag time management problems they want to discuss further in meetings or highlight processes that aren’t working. This can help you identify any issues and tackle them fast.

Be careful to approach this with an encouraging, rather than punitive, mindset. Chances are, staff who struggle with efficiency and deadlines already know they’re falling short, and could use tips to improve. Suggest extra training, more regular check-ins, or a lower workload, to see if that helps overall.

Make it clear how time management (or lack of it) affects the wider business mission, and show them how improving productivity helps to improve work quality, workplace satisfaction, engagement, and results. This should appeal to their sense of wider responsibility and encourage them to work as a team.

5. Encourage staff communication

A view of the Homebase team communication screen on a smartphone.
Using the Homebase team communication tools makes it easier to be time efficient. Source: Homebase

Sharing time management as a positive workplace goal also extends to encouraging team communication, so that staff can share their workload and pull together to hit deadlines if needed.

If everyone feels as though they are working together for a greater goal, rather than competing against each other to show who’s the most efficient, they will be happy to communicate and help when needed. A team member who’s struggling with a task or deadline may ask for assistance from a coworker, share tips, or switch shifts to a time or task that works better for them.

The Homebase team communication app lets staff chat easily, whether as a group or individually, without needing to share personal contact details. They can keep all their workplace messages in a single place and also use the same app to trade shifts or shout out a job well done. 

This improves the feeling of camaraderie and encourages your employees to work as a team to hit targets and work efficiently.

6. Keep employees connected via a mobile app

A view of the Homebase app on a smartphone.
The Homebase makes managing your business more efficient, wherever you are. Source: Homebase

In addition to enabling staff to connect via a platform like Homebase, which has messaging features, using digital time management apps lets your team stay super-efficient wherever and whenever they are.

It’s important to have strong boundaries around apps. You don’t want staff to feel they can take as long as they want on tasks just because they can continue at any time; nor do you want them to feel that they have to work all hours just because they can.

Instead, encourage staff to use a mobile app like Homebase to improve productivity and enable them to respond to messages and quick tasks on the go during agreed working hours. This reduces bottlenecks and enables your team to be more agile, responsive, and mobile when necessary.

Depending on your business, using a mobile app may also help work-life balance, because your staff can get tasks done even if they’re not physically in the workplace, giving them flexibility and freedom.

7. Simplify processes with a digital employee management platform

A view of some of Homebase’s hiring tools.
Homebase’s hiring tools can help you save serious time and be more efficient. Source: Homebase

Using a digital platform like Homebase to manage scheduling, track hours, share tasks, and establish strong communication helps both managers and workers get more done in less time too, improving output and time management overall.

Digitizing these tasks saves you time compared to doing everything manually, and also makes it much more time-efficient. 

For example, when it comes to setting schedules, Homebase has features like copy-and-paste templates, so you don’t have to build shift patterns from scratch every time. You can also factor in PTO or availability automatically and don’t have to email everyone individually with the new schedule.

For payroll, you can automatically translate timesheets to accurate wages, and also take into account PTO and tips so you manage costs and pay the right amount at the right time, and fast.

Other Homebase features that save you time and money include: 

  • Hiring and onboarding tools, to create job ads, track applicants, and arrange interviews all in one place. 
  • HR & compliance tools, which help you store staff information efficiently, so you can find any data you need quickly. It also updates you on any new laws or compliance issues, to save you time on manually checking or keeping records and qualifications up-to-date.

Staff can also use the tools to manage PTO requests and sick leave, streamlining this process (and many others) and saving everyone time and stress throughout.

Training your employees on time management

People around a table having a discussion or a training session.
Bringing your staff together in a training session or workshop can be one way to help them with time management. Source: Dylan Gillis / Unsplash

Now you know why and how to improve time management, you want to get your team on board. Here are some ideas to train your employees in better time management, and empower them to put the theory into practice.

  • Group training activities. Set up workshops or team events on the subject of time management, to highlight its benefits, and suggest top tips on how to implement it better.
  • Experimenting with techniques during the day. Your managers can suggest time management techniques like setting goals and prioritizing one or two tasks, and encourage staff to put them into practice on the job. You could divide them up, or try one new technique a week.
  • Online courses. These can share important tips while giving staff more freedom over when they complete the tasks and/or watch the instructional videos.
  • Share your time management actions. If you’re working on new time management strategies, and taking action like reducing distractions (see point three above), then let your staff know and tell them what’s in it for them! They’ll likely appreciate the move and work to keep it going. 
  • Introduce incentives. Rather than punishing staff for late deadlines or inefficiencies, gamify the process by offering incentives and rewards when they do hit targets or achieve new goals. You could have teams to make it even more collaborative and fun, or set monthly challenges for each new policy or goal (like five deadlines hit, or clocking out on time for a week in a row.)

How to improve employee time management in the best way for your business

Effective time management can have incredibly positive effects on your small business, and help improve results, reduce stress, cut excess costs, reduce turnover and burnout, and improve work-life balance. 

It helps managers, employers, and employees to manage your time and workload more effectively, and get more done to a higher quality in less time, with less stress.

Using a small business management platform like Homebase enables you to simplify a huge variety of crucial workplace processes that make time management much easier and more efficient — like time clock tracking, scheduling, timesheets, automatic payroll, team communication, hiring, HR, and even team perks.

So you can implement successful time management practices, and start reaping the productivity and work-life balance rewards you deserve.

Remember: This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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