If you're working on or managing a remote team, you've probably heard one of the buzziest of buzzwords heading into 2023: team utilization rate. For a phrase that sounds kinda blah, it packs a pretty hefty emotional weight. Some people are obsessed with team utilization rate. Some people loathe it. But one thing is certain — remote team managers must understand and know how to put it to work for them.
We've got all the insights you need on team utilization rate right here.
What Is Team Utilization Rate?
So, math isn't your thing. Not a problem because, as equations go, it doesn't get much simpler than tallying up your utilization rate.
With the right data, you can factor each employee's UR, then take the averages to find your team UR. This will tell you if your team's most precious commodity — time — is being used efficiently or if hours are being mishandled, miscalculated, or just lost in the shuffle.
But before we go any further, we need to discuss the elephant in the blog: Isn't monitoring team utilization rate equivalent to micromanaging? Don't employees feel that Big Brother is always watching?
The answers to those questions are as follows: "No." And "Not if you do it right." The goal of tracking team utilization rate is never to steal your employees' autonomy or damage your trust in them. Rather, it's to ensure that time is being properly managed to everyone's benefit. Why is this so important, especially on remote teams? Let's find out.
Why Does Monitoring Utilization Rate Matter on a Remote Team?
The year 2020 was a wake-up call for businesses and employees alike, and the sudden shift to remote work led to questions about time management and productivity. Overall, remote teams have thrived, and employees enjoy the autonomy and freedom that remote work affords them.
But remote work also means more distractions. It means more blurred lines between professional and personal life. It means a greater feeling of being "always on." And all of this can spell trouble, especially if deadlines aren't being met, quality is slipping, or employees are struggling.
Monitoring employee and team utilization rate can uncover issues before they become major problems and can help protect your employees and make them less susceptible to burnout.
Team utilization rate is one way to nurture a stronger workplace culture, as it relies heavily on strong communication and collaboration. It improves the organization and ensures a better environment for team members where their efforts are seen, appreciated, and rewarded.
When it comes right down to it, tracking and monitoring team utilization rate benefits remote teams by:
- Setting clear and realistic expectations
- Leveraging tools that make time and productivity simpler and easier
- Empowers team members with real-time data
So, how do you implement team utilization rate monitoring to improve time management and productivity across your remote team?
Tips to Track and Improve Team Utilization
You'll often see this referred to as "resource management." Basically, your employees and their time are your most critical resources — how you manage them can determine the course of your company's future and its future success. Here are some of our best insights on how to start calculating team utilization and build a better business around it.
Lock in Your Communication Policy
Before you begin, you need to have a detailed communication policy as a guidepost for all employees. Most remote teams utilize many forms of asynchronous communication, which can save time and encourage productivity. But it does come with challenges, so you need to prepare yourself and your employees for those in advance by outlining a chain of command for urgent or emergency communication needs and appointing a point of contact for each service line.
Choose a Platform for Tracking Time
To get the most accurate sense of team utilization rate, you'll want to go with real-time resource tracking. That means employees are tracking all time spent on work, whether it's for billable hours, non-billable hours, or strategic work. This is the best way to get a clear picture of how time is being used across your team. It will also help you detect inconsistencies that could turn into problems.
For instance, you may find that you're dedicating too many team members and too much time to meetings, or you'll learn that certain employees consistently go over their hours and are more at risk for burnout.
Also remember that it isn't just about tracking time; it's about being proactive. Tracking time will help you plan in advance for how long you believe a task or project will take so you can prioritize and make the best use of your time and resources (your people).
Most project management platforms offer a time-tracking service that will give you individual and team-wide insights. Our go-to is ClickUp, but if your project management resource doesn't include time tracking, you can find several standalone tools that can do it for you.
Check in Frequently...But Not Too Frequently
Team utilization is built on communication, so you want to check in with the team regularly. However, you want to avoid feeling too micromanage-y because we already know the "butts in seats" mentality doesn't work. The shift to remote work was difficult for many employees, and that "always on" feeling caused a lot of stress and anxiety.
Avoid that by creating planned, regular times to check in. How often you do it will depend on your business and your industry. We usually find that a weekly check-in suffices, but you may want to implement a morning standup or even an afternoon sign-off — again, depending on the unique needs of your team.
Promote Virtual Team Building
Team utilization is about more than the quantity of hours you're on the clock — it's also about the quality of the time you spend with your remote colleagues. Remote team building is a necessary way to reinforce culture and encourage communication. Make sure you give team members time to breathe.
Set up non-work-related conversations (we like Donut Dates) or encourage them to take regular breaks. With over half of Americans reporting clinical burnout due to work, team building and downtime aren't a "nice to have" — they're an absolute must.
Start Conversations About Tough Subjects
Speaking of burnout, the conversation needs to begin at the top. Mental health should never be a taboo topic, but if you never bring it up, neither will your employees. Make sure you highlight any benefits you offer that provide mental health support and care and let employees know where to go if they need help. Encourage them not to wait until the situation is dire — they, too, can benefit from their utilization tracking by knowing when they're working over or pushing too hard. This can empower them to come forward sooner and get support before reaching a crisis point.
Is it possible you'll experience some pushback when implementing team utilization rate tracking? Sure. But when you approach it with mutual trust and respect and keep the lines of communication open, it will likely offer huge benefits — to your business and your remote team.