Ways managers can help solve employee time management issues

As a manager or business owner, one of your core responsibilities is to help your team be at the best and do more at work. This means you have to help them prioritize their work, help them optimize daily itinerary, matching them to a role based on their capability and making sure you are not getting in their way.

Yes, it’s easy to act on the contrary.

Without consideration of your intentions, it’s easy to neglect that every single thing you request them to do for the sake of productivity - whether to take up an ‘’urgent’’ assignment or to use a new tool or attend meetings to measure productivity or discuss strategy - all takes time.

Employees time management might not be a top priority on your list of management priorities like increased sales, customer satisfaction, massive online presence or attracting investors, naturally, paying attention to your employee's time management goes beyond the personal issues to a business one. This is why you need to give it the necessary attention and solution.

Let’s consider a few ways employees struggle with time management and how you can be of immense help.


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Give clear expectations and deadlines

Research has made it clear that the issue of time management with employees that most companies face is not always self-inflicted.

Pat Burns, in his book Master The Moment discovered that the issue of time management that employees face can be narrowed to poor leadership, including:

Not knowing what work to prioritize

Having trouble saying no even when their workload is full

Feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks

Procrastinating or not finishing what they start because timelines aren’t clearly set

Always being in reactive mode due to an unclear strategy

Scanning through the list, employees time management issues boil down to poor communication - Not knowing what task to work on, how well to spend their time and not knowing how to say ’no’

All you need to do is to shift your approach to ‘yes’ people. Companies naturally celebrate employees who ‘naturally get the job done.’ You would think that these people are hard workers or they are the crop of people with the right character. In actual sense, they are likely to be stressed and on the road to being exhausted.

Bruce Tulgan, author of Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, what you can do to circumvent employees' time management issues is to pay attention and then talk. Do they need your help? Do they understand what the deliverables are? Do you need to tweak the scope of their projects?

Create a 2-way communication channel to tell you where your expectations don’t match their reality. This should not be assumed as a failure. It is not on anyone’s part. It is just a way to foster the conversation around how well they can do their best work.


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Train your team to plan and estimate time better

Sometimes, it takes you longer than you envisaged to finish up a task.

This is called planning fallacy according to Psychologists. The planning fallacy is when you make a plan for how long a project or task will span and the likely outcome that will herald the plans.

I’m confident many of us have fallen into this scenario. This is worse for an employee or a team member who’s under pressure not to fail or disappoint you.

Auditing the time helps your employees understand what crept in their way during working hours and how you can be of help to spend time more wisely.

You can start by being active in the planning process. More so, break big projects into smaller deliverables. As a manager, you have more insight into certain projects than they do. Such as:

Have they thought about what they’ll need from other departments or how long research or gathering resources will take?

Are they being realistic about how long a milestone will take to achieve?

Can they be held accountable for this timeline?

While this seems like a bigger commitment of time from you, you need to see it from the perspective that you are investing in someone who will be able to manage their time more efficiently and accurately moving forward.


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Does the system in place help or affect productivity

Frankly speaking, not all time management issues are the full fault of the employees.

Actually, many of the processes we put in place to boost productivity and time management in the office environment can actually disable it.

Think about the week in week out team meeting.

On the outside, these meetings are a great means to update everyone, review the project’s progress and create an environment for knowledge sharing. Regardless of the good intentions around frequent meetings, it rarely works out that way.

Frequent meetings do break the time for focused work. They often devoid a well thought out agenda making attendees unclear of what is expected to contribute. In the end, the resolution is usually to have another meeting as a follow-on action.

Frequent meetings are just an example of good intentions gone wrong. There’s also a project management process, documentation policy, and even a communication tool.

When researchers Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen, interviewed knowledge workers across 45 different companies, they found that most were spending 30% of their time on desk work (basic, repeatable tasks like admin) with another 40% on communication.

This leaves only 30%, or 2.5 hours a day, to do meaningful work.

Effective communication is key to the growth and success of your organization. I can also get in the way of real work to be done. If you want the best from your team then you need to put in policies in place that protect their time.

Time management isn’t one person's issue.

As a manager, you have the chance to lead your team to become more confident and productive workers. While this might take up an advance investment of your time but in return, it's worth it.

Nwajei Babatunde

Content creator Vanaplus Group.


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