Freshly squeezed ideas from the Blue Tangerine team
March 19, 2020
With many of our businesses going to a "work from home model", a lot of my clients are asking how to keep track of their workers' productivity. It's a great question, and there are a lot of solutions to this, but here are a few things we do at Blue Tangerine to ensure that the work is getting done.
At Blue Tangerine, we utilize Intervals to manage projects and track time against those projects. Our staff is required to log their time daily and use descriptive time entries, so we can determine what's been worked on when a client asks us about a bill or a project status. The system allows us to set up and report against projects, creating tasks specific to a project and set a work type that we can use to classify the work (e.g. Calls/Meetings vs. Correspondence vs Report Writing, etc.).
Work with your employees on a weekly task/goal list that is shared with you (and maybe the entire team) so people know what's getting worked on. Then have a progress meeting with each employee (or team) to discuss what's done and make sure that progress corresponds to the time worked on the project or task. If you are using a time tracking system, make sure the time is logged and descriptive time entries match the progress.
My business partner Greg Bray is fond of this statement and he’s absolutely right that work needs to be checked on enough that your employees know you are paying attention. I admit, this isn’t my strong suit as a manager because I have lots of things to work on myself, but periodically I will go and read all of the time entries and then I will review any system logs to see if the actions my employees are taking are actually getting done or (even better) I will have them show me on a screen share what they did. Not every piece of work has a tangible output like a report or presentation, so you need to have a way to review what was done. For example, our paid search director will periodically look at the changelogs in Google Ads to see if bid adjustments are being made to our client’s paid search campaigns to ensure that the work is getting done.
You hired your staff for a reason. We give our employees the opportunity to show us that they can still be productive at home without you watching their “every move.” Let’s be honest…it’s impossible to keep track of everything an employee does at the office. It just “feels” like you have more visibility when they are sitting at a desk nearby, but the reality is that a clever employee can easily mask what they are doing at the office. However, the majority of your staff wants to do well and you might be surprised at the productivity gains you will get from someone working from home once they get used to being in a home-office setting.
Working from home is a skill and like most skills, it takes time to develop the “process”. Managers and employees alike have to learn to adapt to this new way of working. At Blue Tangerine, we have two offices in separate states and about 1/3rd of our employees working remotely (in eight different states) under normal circumstances. Our remote team calls in twice a week to a 30-minute scrum with video conferencing, so they have a chance to interact with their peers regularly. Routine calls between remote staff members are done on video calls using Microsoft Teams. It’s much easier to relate to and manage someone when you see them on a regular basis.
Working from home is not for everybody. For me… I can do either. I like to work from my office more than home, but that’s because I have two large monitors plus my laptop screen to work on and it’s more comfortable for me to have that extra equipment. I also like to interact with my staff on a face-to-face basis and take them to lunch once-a-month. But, when I need some quiet time, or I have a sensitive project I’m working on…working from home is great because it gives me the ability to limit outside distractions and focus on the task at hand.
With the recent events in our country work from home will allow you to keep your employees working and productive while keeping your employees and communities safe. It may take a little while, but I think you will find that it can be very effective for your team.