Time Management: Working in the Right Environment for the Right Activity—The Active Communication Zone

Most of us perform our daily tasks at our desk near the computer. Often this is not the best place to do certain activities or priority tasks that take more concentration and less distraction. Activities such as strategic thinking, reading, writing and development often require a different environment to assist in changing the mindset to help perform those tasks more quickly and efficiently. An advantage of technology tools, telework and remote work environments is that workers can now utilize the right environment for the right activity.

Here is one type of zone environment each worker should have ;

 Active-communication zone

Most of us are located in the “active-communication” zone every day. This zone is usually at a person’s desk where the computer and phone are placed. This is the area where we check e-mail, manage day-to-day tasks, and conduct central communications via e-mail and phone. It is a busy environment where we are accustomed to multitasking and providing immediate response. This location is often in an officewide “open” setting and conducive to employee interruptions. Although a necessary and primary zone for most workers, this is not the best zone or environment to accomplish certain tasks that require more thoughtful attention and less external distraction.

Mobile Work Environments: Establish Clear Expectations on Staff Schedules

Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges in remote, mobile and telework environments. All employees should have clear expectations from their supervisor on schedules working from home and being in the office. Ideally, there should be staff meetings to review these expectations so everyone is clear. Then, have a group or shared calendar that staff can post their leave and telework days.

Below are some questions for managers to facilitate the dialogue with staff;

  1. Should telework or remote work days be fluctuating or should they be relatively set?
  2. If a staff person wishes to switch telework days because of personal reasons, will that be acceptable? And in which circumstances?
  3. Should staff stagger their schedules so that the office is always covered?
  4. If there is an important meeting or training, and some of the staff are teleworking should it be required for them to come to the office for certain functions? If so, what type of functions?
  5. If there are staff who do not want to telework and work from home, will that be acceptable?
  6. How will the staff know who is teleworking or working remotely? (e.g. shared calendars, separate telework schedule or staff meetings)

If you require assistance in facilitating these discussions for your remote work force, contact us!

Mobile Work Environments: Creating Responsiveness and Communication Plan

Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges in remote, mobile and telework environments. Consistent and reliable communications is cited as a common challenge among remote workers and their colleagues.

Meetings and face-to-face interaction are necessary in any business. In a remote work environments, it is still important to maintain strong communications to have effective team communication and collaboration. Although there are many types of non face-to-face communication methods, most offices use the primary three; phone, email and instant messaging.

With these communication tools it is important to establish clear guidelines of use and expectations. A lack of responsiveness reinforces the belief that remote workers are neither working nor producing results. For instance if there was a in the office daily check-in established either one-on-one or in a group, determine how to do that check-in via other communication options.

When a manager or staff person needs to get a hold of an employee immediately, determine which communication tool is most appropriate for the team. Be clear on expectations of responsiveness with each communication method. For example, a guideline might be with e-mail a 24-hour response is expected whereas with phone communications within one to two hours.

Remote Work Environments: Protocol Working in a Shared Space

Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges in remote, mobile and telework environments. One challenge is working in a smaller shared space in close proximity with others. In smaller shared environments, it is important to be more conscientious of others. Here are a few tips when working in remote work environments.

  • Be mindful of volume when talking. When needing extensive conversations, or in the case certain individuals might be louder speakers, use the quiet rooms.
  • Make sure to organize and clear off the desk area nightly before leaving the office. Put back any office supplies and/ kitchen items so that the desk is ready for another staff member.
  • If a larger space is needed and/or two desk areas to do work is needed then make sure to communicate with colleagues.
  • Mute volume on phone and computer. When possible mute the phone and computer if the noises might be distracting to others. Consider using a headset if the ringers and alarms are necessary.

Minimize Telephone Interruptions

Have your phone calls go to voicemail during your uninterrupted time. Have your voicemail message articulate clearly the best times to reach you by phone and be sure to include your email address in your message as an alternative way to reach you. Colleagues and customers often express themselves more clearly in email, which in turn allows you to more effectively respond to them – and, to do so in a timely manner. When speaking on the phone, you can politely and professionally establish a time limit when necessary. For example, you can say, “Joe, I’ve only got 5 minutes, but I definitely wanted to get you the information that you called about.” This is probably not for each and every person you talk to but it could certainly be used with some colleagues and professional contacts.