Time management for teams working remote and working from home (WFH)

The world is a different place now. Working remotely was already growing in popularity, but now with an uncharted global crisis, more and more companies are having to deal with the new reality of remote workers. Employers are coming to the understanding that it can be both easier to adopt than they thought, while at the same time presenting a new set of challenges.

Technologies like Zoom and Hangouts can replace face to face meetings exceptionally well however, the issue of time management, and figuring out what to do each day isn’t as easily understood. Communication tools like Slack, Teams, or Workplace can help identify and communicate new and changing priorities but once these are captured from all sources and directions, it’s now left to each worker to build a plan for the day, week, or month and manage it accordingly on their own. Some write it down, some use phone apps, and some make events for it, while others try to keep it in their heads. Without a streamlined process, those systems fall apart quickly when things change leaving workers to spend time creating a new plan and leaving teams with a need for constant updates. This is where effective time management tools and systems can help.

The most effective way to manage work teams, remote or not, is to utilize a work management platform such as TimeHero that can automatically plan and prioritize tasks around everyone’s availability and capacity. Work management is the act of managing tasks, projects, daily work, schedules, and communication, in tandem. TimeHero does all of the things that regular tasks or project management tools do with the added benefit of planning the work automatically and intelligently around everyone’s time.

An effective work and time management platform can help answer these questions.

  1. How can I be sure everyone is managing their time effectively?
  2. How do I know my team is working on the right things?
  3. How do we quickly re-prioritize work as things change?

"How do I know my team is working on the right things?"

This is one of the biggest considerations as work is often prioritized on the fly as a reaction to something that happens across the team with respect to clients, climate and procedures. This is a challenge even within a physical office but is especially amplified when you can’t just pop into an office or see a fellow team member in passing. Managers hope everyone takes good notes and is capable of self prioritization and optimization of their time, but this is rarely the case. Even the most productive, detail-oriented workers, struggle with planning, estimating work and remembering which task is the higher priority. Often different people from different departments view the top priorities differently especially with tasks related to their own department or client.

Automated work management tools like TimeHero look at all the tasks, events, and available time and use advanced AI to build a smart dynamic plan that adjusts based on other factors. Because TimeHero plans all your time, you can see your team’s week, month and year as it stands right now and sees what issues in the plan may need to be addressed and which can wait. Users can also see time and workload reports that show how time is spent both according to the current plan and how time was spent in the past. TimeHero even shows how much time is unplanned.  

TimeHero, in particular, is really good at making it easy to manage relative risk. A task has the potential to pass through several levels of risk as it progresses on its way to getting done. Let’s imagine it’s Monday and you have until Friday to complete a given task. TimeHero would attempt to plan the task on Monday unless other things were more important or the day was unavailable or filled with meetings. In those cases, the task would schedule for the next available day. We are always dealing with changing priorities as a part of life though, so as the task got closer to its due date, the risk of not getting it done would increase. TimeHero would then show the task as medium or high risk depending on how close to the deadline it got and how many ‘opportunities’ there were for another reschedule. Of course there could be a chance that everything else in the schedule was more important thereby having the task schedule past its planned due date. In that instance, TimeHero would show the task as ‘Behind’ which is different from overdue. The main difference is that the user would still able to do something about the risk to get it back on track. The task could be reassigned, the due date could be changed, or the user could work additional hours to get things back on track. In TimeHero, a task that shows as overdue means the task was due in the past and the user had not yet completed it or at least logged the time for it. TimeHero does everything possible to ensure this doesn’t happen. 

The schedule regularly optimizes itself to ensure the user gets the most important things done while also revealing the impact on tasks that are planned past their due dates. 

"How do we quickly re-prioritize and plan work as things change?"

With everyone in the office, things move fast and changing priorities while working remotely is likely still communicated via tools like Slack.  TimeHero is constantly working to make sure the most important things are being planned all the time. This includes when things change or new high priority work is added. Standard practice when there is a new company plan or emergency priority is that there is usually a meeting among stakeholders in which they agree priorities have changed and that all other work down goes down in priority and the new work is now a singular focus. Depending on the size of the organization, there are usually several more meetings with each group where they communicate and plan the new work.  

What is difficult while managing this change is:

  • Knowing how and which existing work tasks/projects get affected.
  • How to plan quickly and take action quickly.
  • Meeting and communicating while working remotely.
  • Making sure the important work gets done.
  • Making sure the existing work doesn't get forgotten or lost.

There are a number of ways that TimeHero helps with changing direction or focus. 

How TimeHero supports managing changes of direction

The first way is that pretty much every task planned from right now and in the future is subject to change. If a user needs something done they simply add a task with a critical priority and a deadline of today and TimeHero will schedule it today before other less important tasks. If the user absolutely needs a task done today they have the ability to “pin” the task which effectively writes it in stone for the day regardless of availability, work hours and meeting schedules. Once the day passes, if it’s still not done, it pins to the next day and so on.

Using Workflow templates

Using a task list or project template allows users to queue up a plan that needs to be in place well ahead of time. Users can predetermine deadlines and add critical task priorities in the template. Let’s say your company has a Public Relations workflow that needs to be followed immediately by certain people on the communications team as a top priority. The manager on the team could create a new project based on the emergency plan to assign and schedule an unlimited number of tasks to as many people as required in seconds. The tasks, due to their critical priority and relative deadlines of immediately after the project started, will push all other work to other days after the emergency is over for everyone on the team. Nothing planned is forgotten, however. Several tasks may then need to be managed as they may end up being overdue, behind or riskier than before. This is part of the magic of TimeHero, the ability to assess and deal with potential issues before they actualize. 

Users have the ability to create workflows for work they do all the time. Consider the process of hiring a new employee. There are a good number of steps that multiple people have to do before the hire date (ex: order business cards, compile equipment, prepare paperwork) and several after they start (ex: organize tours, complete forms, notify of policies). Much of this work is just ‘the way we do things’ and is all stored in the heads of the HR department. With TimeHero, team leaders design the process once and run it each time a new employee is hired. All those tasks are scheduled in literally seconds across all the team members.

"How will I know if everyone is managing their time effectively?"

When you use traditional productivity tools that use just task names with deadlines you don’t know if the task is actually being worked on. When the deadline passes and the task isn’t “checked off” you can assume the task didn’t get completed and its also probably too late.

Each day is planned automatically to make sure the right things get done.

In a typical office environment, everyone is left on their own to figure out what to work on. Managers hold meetings often daily to determine major priorities, assign duties, and react to any new situations. From there, team members are often assigned work or we ‘react’ to emails, phone calls, and market data. Putting out fires is how most people determine what they are working on. 

TimeHero automatically creates an optimized plan each day for each team member while constantly prioritizing tasks as they come in. Every team member’s calendar is filled automatically and they can add daily tasks, project work, and repeating work or meetings and events they need to be at. As tasks approach their deadline they get risker and the schedule becomes less flexible.

Built-in timer and time tracking in TimeHero

With integrated and auto-generated time-sheets, time tracking is effortless and accurate. TimeHero presents its plan for what it thinks the user can accomplish that day. Users can complete tasks as they work on them or

launch timers to track their time more accurately. Users can also easily multi-task by pausing and starting multiple timers throughout the day. If a worker ends up doing something that wasn’t planned, that's OK too. They could simply log the task on the day they did it, enter the time, and mark the task as complete.

Automated time-sheets in TimeHero

Timesheets include planned, estimated, and completed work as its created, completed and scheduled. There is nothing more to do! Everything is tracked automatically. Complete tasks as they are scheduled and adjust the Estimated Time to Actual Time it took and hit Complete. Users can also log work, tell the system that they’re not done or that they need to schedule additional time and then leave it to TimeHero to find the next best time to finish up.  

The art of automatically planning and prioritizing of work in TimeHero

Ease of assigning tasks to others

We built TimeHero to quickly plan those one-off tasks that may not belong in a project but needs to get done. At the office, this is usually done by bumping into a manager in the hallway that asks you to order some more paper or when action items are created during a meeting. The work never existed before and you hope everyone wrote it all down but you just don’t know.

In TimeHero to quickly assign a task:

  1. Hit ‘T’ on your keyboard to bring up the task dialog;
  2. Type the name of the task, when you need it by and use the @ symbol followed by the name of the person you need to do it. Ex: “Order paper by wed @angela”  

It’s as easy as that. Users can also enter an estimate but TimeHero will assume a duration of 15 minutes if they don’t. Users also don’t need to add a project or folder. TimeHero would just send it to Angela’s Inbox and plan the work in her calendar, prioritized properly with everything else she had going on. Users can also mark tasks as high or critical priority to have them re-planned with priority. 

Enforcing processes are followed

Most processes in the workplace are stored in documents and usually don’t detail all of the work that needs to be done. If the work involves processes or repeating work, TimeHero’s smart project templates make this easy and fast. Create templates based on how you want work to happen and your expected room to complete. TimeHero will schedule within the parameters of each task and schedule the dependencies.

Why other task tools may may not work as well for time management

Problem #1:  Task lists are ‘static’

Most standard task lists are really good at saying what needs to be done by when. The problem though is that the user is still left to figure out what to do that day. Proactive workers sometimes block time in their calendars to do specific tasks. This may be done over the course of a week or longer but then it becomes very time consuming to manage and is not responsive to tasks that took longer than expected or when there’s a shift in priorities. 

TimeHero solves this by using our advanced AI to automatically replan tasks as it detects changes in priority, work hours, or delayed completion.

Problem #2: Most tools don’t allow for estimation 

Most task lists don’t allow users to specify how long work should take, which makes time management almost impossible. There has been a lot of research that has concluded that humans are unable to perceive time realistically. Our best guesses are almost always wrong but what we don’t realize is that there is a cascading effect that builds up and has an impact on scheduled work several days, weeks, or months out. 

TimeHero solves this by making it easy to add and adjust estimates and log work.

Problem #3: Using one tool for projects and another for daily tasks

The companies that make use of project management tools have all the tasks required to complete a given project but they don’t factor into play that most workers also have other things to do. Things like checking email, or analytics, or writing proposals, and countless meetings are usually not factored into work schedules and project timelines.  

TimeHero solves this by automatically scheduling tasks around user events and taking into consideration all work required for the user. 

Book a demo to see how teams of all sizes have already been seeing the benefits of using TimeHero for working remotely.

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