While some are well prepared to work from home, others will be finding it challenging to work together effectively and keep projects on track.
When team members aren’t working side-by-side, job management best practices (like time tracking and reporting) are even more important to put in place. Using the right technology, processes and communication strategies are essential to keeping things running as close to business-as-usual as possible.
To keep delivering awesome services to your clients, we’ve outlined seven tips for staying on top of job management as you work remotely.
1. Make it easy to access job information
If your team is using multiple methods to manage job progress (spreadsheets, cloud storage, email, and paper documents), important documents and data can become hard to track down or lost as people move between systems.
You want to be sure your team knows exactly where to find what they need. Whether it’s a quote, due date, proposal or any other job-related details – employees shouldn’t have to spend time chasing information.
As a starting point, your team should be able to easily access:
- Which jobs and tasks they’ve been assigned
- How much time should be allocated to each job
- Start date and end dates, and major milestones for all jobs they’re working on
- How to track time and costs and allocate them to the appropriate job
- Upcoming, in progress, on hold, or cancelled jobs
A job management system (like WorkflowMax) lets you manage your entire job cycle in one place and gives you a single point of truth for all job-related data. Each team member can view all assigned jobs and allocated time, important dates, and relevant documentation in a customisable dashboard.
Whichever method you choose, make it a priority to have information available at your team’s fingertips while removing any bottlenecks that prevent independent work.
2. Keep a precise record of time (and other job data)
As we are getting used to our new normal, cash flow and business continuity are top of mind – which makes accurate collection and management of job financial data (such as time and direct costs) especially important.
Your clients may ask for more detailed and frequent invoices, and may be less flexible in deviating from the job estimate. Similarly, your firm might be especially focused on accurately allocating time and costs to jobs to prevent under-invoicing.
Being diligent about recording time and costs is a team effort. Right now is a great time to re-establish timesheet and cost tracking best practices.
Here are some things you could put in place:
- Set expectations regarding when employees should be filling out timesheets (as work is completed, on a daily basis, etc)
- A cut-off time for timesheet submission (do employees need to submit more often?)
- The level of detail required in a timesheet (do time logs need to be more descriptive?)
- Job-specific requirements (like cost centre allocations)
- Keeping track of unbillable hours and costs so you can manage resource planning and overhead expenses
To help motivate everyone to do their part, make it as easy as possible for your team to track and submit job time and costs. Job management and time tracking software offer different ways to track employee time (including desktop and mobile apps, daily and weekly timesheets and built-in timers to record time as work is in progress) and then automatically allocate that time to the appropriate job.
Understanding exactly how much your team is working will not only help you invoice clients accurately, it will help you manage your team’s workload and report on job performance.
3. Maintain a balanced workload
When you can’t see your team sitting across from you, it can be easy to lose a line of sight into what everyone is working on and assess your team’s capacity to take on work.
In addition, recent circumstances will have likely made an impact on everyone’s workload – like parents juggling working from home and childcare, or jobs that have been delayed or cancelled.
Develop a process for monitoring your team’s capacity and make adjustments to current, recurring and future jobs on a more frequent basis.
If you’re using a job management solution or scheduling app, you can see exactly how much time employees are working on various jobs each day, and allocate tasks to balance the workload and fill schedule gaps accordingly.
4. Establish job milestones to keep your team on track
While it’s clearly important to monitor your team’s completion of individual tasks, when your team is physically dispersed it’s critical to establish and track against job milestones. A milestone is a significant, marked progress point that breaks the job down into manageable pieces.
Common examples of job milestones include:
- Start and end dates
- Budget checks
- Draft due dates
- External or internal reviews
- Tests or inspections
Setting milestones helps your team stay on top of major deadlines and lets you get ahead of any potential risks to delivering on time.
5. Measure job performance regularly
Accurate reporting gives you insights into productivity, performance, workflow and profitability that can inform business decisions.
However, as you’re getting used to new ways of working, it’s even more important to make regular reporting part of your workflow to get a clear picture of how your team and business is performing through this change.
Conduct reports before, during and after jobs to answer important questions, such as:
- Are we running jobs on budget?
- Are employees completing work as efficiently? Which employees are the most productive? Who might need some extra support or training?
- Which jobs are the most profitable? Are any jobs more work than they’re worth?
- How do our estimated hours compare to our actuals? Are we on track with what we quoted?
- How much money have we generated?
While it’s important to know these answers to make adjustments to upcoming jobs and plan for business continuity, everyone is going through changing circumstances and your numbers might be different than usual.
6. Make time for non-work related conversation
When you can no longer rely on morning coffee banter and the lunch table to connect with your colleagues, it can make it hard to feel like you’re part of a team!
In addition to your regular team meetings, schedule in time for non-work related conversation – like catching up on each other’s weekends and discussing the latest Netflix crazes.
Try some of these strategies:
- Implement 15-minute team syncs every morning to catch up. Encourage everyone to have their cameras on so you can pick up on non-verbal cues like body language, tone of voice and appearance to get a sense of how everyone is feeling
- Start every scheduled meeting with 5-10 minutes of small talk before you get into the topic at hand
- Host an optional (but highly encouraged) remote happy hour or team activity at the end of each week. Play virtual games, do trivia, start a book club, or anything else that helps keep your team connected
Formally scheduling time to not talk about work may seem counterproductive to staying on top of jobs, but informal social time often forms the glue that keeps your team working together cohesively.
7. Be supportive of your team’s mental and physical health
Working on your own, especially when you’re used to an office working environment, can pose serious challenges to one’s mental and physical health. According to a recent report, remote employees are more susceptible to working longer hours and feeling “always on” due to blurred boundaries between work and personal life, isolation, and burnout.
To keep your team feeling happy and healthy (and therefore empowered to stay on top of their work), consider the following tips:
- Promote flexible working times to accommodate different household schedules (such as parents with newfound childcare responsibilities, roommates sharing working space and internet bandwidth)
- Encourage regular breaks! Research shows that short breaks have many benefits for employee wellbeing, including improved productivity, better sleep and reduced stress
- Organise wellbeing activities for your team like yoga, meditation and sharing healthy recipes
- Do one of Xero’s wellbeing courses to help with work/life balance, stress and resilience
Something as simple as asking your team members how they are doing and being available to listen can go a long way to show your support.
Reimagine your ways of working
While managing jobs with a fully remote team may require some process changes, adopting these best practices will continue to be helpful when your team returns to its regular work environment. And, navigating this challenging time might just help you to reimagine how your team can work even better together in the future.