If you are a manager at an agency or studio, you understand the currency of time. Your company's revenue is frequently measured in hourly rates, multiplied by billable hours. The financial success of your business is determined by the utilization of your team.
However, a metric that won't appear on the balance sheet, but is critical to the success of any business, is the measure of productivity. Productivity is the output of your team over a given period. If you're able to increase productivity, you're able to produce more work, deliver more value for your clients, pitch for more new business, and outpace competition.
At Float, we spend a lot of our time observing how the top agencies, studios and brands manage their team's time. Float is a resource scheduling application used by teams big and small to help manage their team's schedule, allocate tasks efficiently, and keep tabs on utilization. Over the years, through many interviews and studies, we've identified a few consistent traits about successful companies that allow them to maximize productivity, maintain high utilization and continue to win more business.
As we kick off the new year we figured it's a good time to share a few of these traits and tips on how you can apply them to your own business.
01. Limit the number of different tasks your team work on
When tasks are assigned to team members in Float, we see that the average allocation is 4.5 hours per day. This means that any team member, on average, has around two tasks for the day to work on. By reducing the number of different tasks a team member works on a given day, it reduces the switching cost associated with transitioning to a new task.
There are many studies that have been done regarding the negative effects of switching between different tasks on productivity. Allow your team members long, concentrated stretches to complete projects, limit switches between tasks, and you'll find they can achieve more. Let's leave the term 'multi-tasking' back in 2015 where it belongs.
02. Block out time for no interruptions
Pop quiz: How do you make a team member work faster? Interrupt them. Yes, while counterintuitive, studies show that people who are often interrupted work faster when they return to the task to compensate for the lost time.
The trade off? Studies also show these people are more stressed and frustrated with their jobs.
Healthy, happy workers are key to long-term productivity. Limiting the number of interruptions and keeping the team focused should be a top priority for any manager.
The astronomical growth of platforms like Slack is changing the way we communicate in the workplace. While reducing email clutter, and centralizing the team conversation, their real-time nature and ubiquitous presence make them a number one candidate for interruptions.
Recently these services have recognized this issue and have started offering features to help. The Basecamp team started this trend with the 'Work Can Wait' setting, and now Slack allow you to set your own 'Do Not Disturb' time, a period where you won't receive any push notifications. Encourage your team to set these up within reasonable work hours and respect them.
Also be sure to set an example of how to use @here and @channel settings. These features enable you to message all of your team at once: think of them as the modern-day Reply All. This shotgun approach to communication is disruptive, so use it wisely, and think twice before you decide to interrupt everyone.
03. Start meetings on time, end meetings on time
Starting meetings on time is the easiest way to save your agency time. A team of 12 starting a meet 10 minutes late means you've effectively lost two hours of work.
Back to back meetings are a sure-fire way to deliver cascading delays throughout the day. For those that use Google Calendar, they have meeting efficiency built-in with their 'Speedy Meeting' setting. When you check this feature in your Account Settings, 30 minute meetings end five minutes earlier, one hour meetings end 10 minutes early. Encourage your team to enable this for their meetings.
Scheduling meetings with clients or vendors? Avoid the email tag and use a tool like Calendly. This gives the meeting recipient access to the hours you have available so they can pick a time that suits, and you can coordinate a meet time in one email, not five.
04. Embrace real-time change
Tools that enable teams to collaborate in real-time should be prioritized over static, locally hosted files. The Google Docs suite has had a huge impact in this space, with the ability to share, write, comment, and edit documents simultaneously amongst the team, a big time-saver. Float also enables managers to collaborate in real-time on their scheduling, ensuring that when changes arise, as they often do, you can react quickly and keep your team up-to-date.
These tools have the added benefit of auto-saving to the cloud, ensuring no matter where you are, you have access to the latest information. If you lose your laptop – like I did recently on a trip to Europe! – you can also be back up and running as soon as you have a replacement.
05. Value not just the work but how you work
Leaders that value their team's time, take proactive steps to audit, optimize and improve their company's practices and processes.
I'd encourage any team that is serious about increasing productivity to schedule regular time out of their day to critique the way they work. If you can find ways to continuously improve, break bad habits, and introduce new ones, you'll soon see not only an increase in long-term productivity, but an increase in your bottom line.
Words: Glenn Rogers
Glenn Rogers is CEO of Float. Float is a resource scheduling application for managing your team's time.
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