Why managing time at work is the new frontier

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Knowledge-based businesses have been evolving at pace, adjusting to our post-Brexit landscape, pandemic-enforced remote working and new hybrid working arrangements.

They have been speedily integrating new technologies and transforming core products and services and how these are delivered.

They have also been forced to pay far greater attention to the needs and aspirations of their employees as people have used the surreal hiatus of the pandemic to re-evaluate their work lives and career plans.  


Effective time management:

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Self-management and flexible working have never been more important

Optimising processes for decision-making in business

Data-driven management in the hybrid workplace


Against a backdrop of overwork, low productivity, rising stress, mental ill-health and loneliness, many people are looking for deeper meaning in their work, richer connections with colleagues and more rewarding careers.

HR leaders are thinking hard about how to accelerate progress on diversity, equity and inclusion; how to keep people energised not isolated and cognitively depleted after long days interacting through screens; how to strengthen a shared sense of community and understanding of ‘the way we do things around here’; and how to support line managers in managing their time- and location-dispersed team members.  

These challenges require us to fundamentally re-think the way we are all spending our working hours.

Our ingrained time norms include an over-reliance on (often poorly run) meetings; a cult of busyness that falsely signals achievement; an emphasis on short-term rather than long-term goals, speed over inclusivity in decision-making, and task accomplishment over interpersonal activities such as listening, enquiry, reflection and empathy that drive greater wellbeing, fairness, creativity and belonging.

The question of how we manage our time at work can feel too intangible or too deeply woven in the status quo for us to address it – but businesses can’t afford to ignore it any longer. 

Our time blindness is hampering our ability to achieve strategic and organisational goals and preventing individuals from flourishing in their careers.

We need to fix the system by adopting a more holistic approach to managing our collective working time.

This is about fundamentally transforming our work culture and organisations to enable a different experience – and outcome – of work. From my research I have identified these six traits of organisations that value and manage time strategically: 

  1. Outcome obsessed: maintaining a laser-sharp focus on outcomes with time-aware leaders
     
  2. Deliberately designed: minimising distractions and helping people focus on the important work 

  3. Actively aware: fostering healthy habits and environments that enable people to do their best work 

  4. Career committed: investing in long-term careers with tailored ‘time deals’ 

  5. Community cultivators: valuing humanity, social cohesion and wellbeing, and
     
  6. Expertly evolving: prizing experimentation, learning and open-mindedness 

In The Future of Time I detail 24 positive time practices; specific actions that, when spread and sustained across the business, add up to a significant shift in organisation behaviours and outcomes.

The right approach will vary from organisation to organisation, so the book offers tools, timelines and case studies to help you tailor your own strategy for ‘re-working’ time.

After all, this is about helping your business to achieve its goals, so find the hook that will get this on your executive agenda and create a plan that works on three levels.

At an individual level you can promote healthy, productive time habits and leaders who actively role model ‘time intelligent’ behaviours.

At team level you can create time-savvy teams by running short, focused workshops to agree how best to manage working time across the team and equipping managers with the tools, skills and confidence to lead these discussions.

And at the organisational level you can review your HR policies and programmes to incentivise and reward a more productive, sustainable use of time that promotes inclusion, wellbeing and a shared sense of purpose.

In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, tomorrow’s winners will be those who master this new frontier of time.  

 

Helen Beedham writes, speaks and advises on how to create more inclusive, productive workplaces where everyone can flourish. She is the author of The Future of Time: How ‘re-working’ time can help you boost productivity, diversity and wellbeing