Time management has been around so long as a corporate subject that it’s been in danger of falling completely off the corporate radar. Back in the heady days of the 1980s, it was a hot topic with expert trainers promising to find over-worked executives an hour or more of time in their day – even that they could actually go home on time sometimes.
And often the trainers delivered, at least for a short while, as simple lessons about setting priorities (and ways to stick to them), ring-fencing ‘red time’ and other practical techniques proved relatively easy to implement and occasionally produced almost miraculous results.
The Cold Embrace of Email
Then along came email – to be immediately embraced by the executive world as the answer to their dreams. Now they could work faster, more efficiently, beat their targets and win those bonuses. Answers came in minutes, rather days. The disruption of frequent phone calls reduced. Nobody needed Time Management anymore. It was love at first sight.
But like most whirlwind romances, it came close to ending in tears. Email had us all in chains – late into the night, at weekends, even on holidays. There was, literally, no escape. So much for the promise of more free time!
The backlash was already well underway before Covid-19 came along and shook the world of business. Forward-thinking corporates had begun to introduce rules to limit out-of-hours emails. Work/life balance was starting to be a serious management concept, not a dangerously subversive idea.
And then, suddenly, we were all told to go remote. It shouldn’t be too difficult – we’re all so used to sitting in front of a screen in our office cubicles for hours at a time, anyway. We’d now just be sitting at home doing the same.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that, though. Senior managers and their teams are both finding that remote working has some big advantages but comes with some pretty serious issues, too.
Which brings us neatly back to Time Management. What is becoming clear is that successful remote working requires a genuine shift in mindset, a move from a time-based working model to a task and results-based approach. It’s actually a far bigger shake up than simply sitting in a different space.
Both managers and their teams need urgently to improve their time management skills – managers in order to brief and monitor remote teams more effectively, their team members to ensure that work time does not completely wipe out their personal time.