The art of emphasizing time management in the workplace is not new.
But whereas it used to be that entrepreneurs and their managers could keep an eye on employees, which led the employees to be more responsible with their time, the shift to a remote workforce has upset the equation.
A recent study by Canadian academic Brad Aeon, a graduate researcher at John Molson School of Business, Aïda Faber of Université Laval in Quebec City, and Alexandra Panaccio, associate professor of management at John Molson, which analyzed time management literature derived from 158 separate studies spanning four decades, six continents, and involving more than 53,000 respondents, seemed to reinforce that notion.
“People have more leeway in deciding how to structure their own time, so it is up to them to manage their own time as well,” Aeon said. “If they are good at it, presumably they will have a better performance. And if they are not, they will have an even worse performance than they would have had 30 years ago, when they had more of their time managed for them.”
This is where I would recommend a couple things. First, consider a workshop over Zoom with a handful of employees at a time, which explores best practices. Second, explore embracing some of the software applications like Asana, which will help employees manage their priorities, or Slack, which will help them reduce clutter in their inbox.
Another way to move them in the right direction is to help the employees see the bigger picture when it comes to time management. The researchers above found a strong relationship between time management and overall well-being.
“Time management helps people feel better about their lives because it helps them schedule their day-to-day around their values and beliefs, giving them a feeling of self-accomplishment,” Aeon explains.
That correlation, though obvious, is worth restating. The business owner wins because their business is more efficient AND because he or she is creating loyalty in the workforce, which also benefits the company.
There is one caveat to all this: Be gentle.
As the world continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, resist the temptation to compare time management skills with supposedly more successful people. This could backfire, creating what Aeon calls “time management shaming.”
“You see these social media posts saying, ‘Yes, there’s a pandemic, but I learned a new language or I woke up at 5 a.m. and accomplished more in a few hours than you will all day,'” Aeon said. “It makes the rest of us feel bad and creates unrealistic standards as to what we can and cannot do with our time.”
Instead, focus on how we are all on the same team. Be willing to identify mistakes that you have made, and how you are determined to do better. Your employees will match that determination, and your business will be the better for it.