Time Eaters. The first such calculator

Even 1.3 million PLN per year can be gained by a small shared service thanks to elimination of the so-called time eaters. The first calculator on the market was designed to quickly calculate the benefits of eliminating them in Business Services and Back/Middle Office teams.

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Krzysztof Pimpicki
CEO, Harmodesk & Positive Productivity
Michał Stangret
Evangelist, Harmodesk & Positive Productivity

Have you ever wondered what is the real cost of your daily activities related to allocating tasks to staff? How long does it usually take for you to verify the work statuses of your team members? "Negotiations with staff" as to the allocation of unfinished tasks? Preparation of statistics, data extraction and consolidation from various systems?

These are only the examples of tasks that make up your everyday routine work. Work organization of teams - especially in a remote or hybrid work model - became an ever greater challenge consuming more of your precious time and energy. 

Very often, on-going action take over our schedules to such an extent that we don’t have enough time and energy to complete tasks that provide real value to the organization. Instead of building teams, developing organizations, setting & reaching goals in line with the managerial ambitions, we imperceptibly become prisoners of simple, mundane activities. Imperceptibly, because this is how the time eaters work.

7 time eaters of everyday work for Business Services & Back Office teams

In case of a line workers, a key area of destructive action of time eaters are activities that support current, everyday performance of the tasks. Specifically, those related to organizing, planning, communicating around organizing & monitoring task statuses. Let's focus our attention on the multiplicity of such activities performed by staff every day. 

Among them, we recognize 4 main time eaters of line workers, resulting from:

  • Completing several tasks simultaneously, in a system environment that isn’t conducive to focus.
  • Ineffective communication (with the manager) about tasks to be performed on a given day and the status of the fulfilment of the other issues, including problems with the fulfilment of the tasks.
  • The need to independently arrange staff’s own work, when deciding what is to be done in case of conflicting priorities, management of urgent "drop-ins".
  • The need for staff to independently search for information about tasks, organize them, manage suspended tasks, which completion wasn’t possible the first time, which must be found, organized before resuming task execution.

On the other side of the everyday task fulfilment processes are managers, exposed to the activities of the time eaters associated with organizing, monitoring, reporting activities as below:

  • The audit of task performance throughout the day, "negotiations with staff" as to the allocation or assignment of tasks unfinished by others.
  • Preparing and manually distributing tasks so as to delegate work to individual employees and performing other technical related activities.
  • Preparing statistics by extracting, consolidating data from various transaction systems and other external files for reporting purposes and for meetings with the team.

Based on our experience from over 500 Business Services & Back/Middle Office teams we’ve created a model on the basis of which we’ve developed a time release calculator which makes it possible, among other things, an estimation of the amount of time lost in the aforementioned areas. 

  • In case of a line worker it’s 0.75 hrs./day, i.e. 15.75 hrs./month (approx. 9% of the working month).
  • In case of  a manager it’s 1.25 hrs./day, i.e. 26.25 hrs./month (approx. 16% of the working month).

An example. In an organization consisting of 50 line workers working in a 10 person team on average (5 managers), the organization loses 787.5 hrs/month of line workers' working time and 131.25 hrs/month of managers' working time due to the activity of an aforementioned 7 time eaters. Assuming that on average we work 168 hrs/month (depending on holidays and weekends with this monthly figure usually varying from 152 to 184 hrs.) this translates into nearly 5 FTEs i.e. Full Time Equivalents) line worker job and almost one full-time manager job respectively.

This provides a first picture of the power of activities of the time eaters. Importantly, additionally, we also observe a significant time loss spent on sub-optimal task execution resulting from the adopted work organization method.

7 time eaters due to sub-optimal work organisation

In this field, in case of line workers, we distinguish 4 main time eaters resulting from:

  • Uneven distribution of work in the team on a given day, which causes stress in order to be on time (translating into lower quality of work, overtime), unproductive waiting for work, "slacking off" on days with fewer tasks.
  • Lack of matching tasks to staff: they perform tasks that are below their competence or tasks that they don’t like to perform (decreased commitment, motivation).
  • Necessity of solving quality problems related to backlog,  management of tasks which has been suspended, committing similar quality mistakes.
  • Lack of knowledge & application of best practices for the execution of a given task by staff (they execute tasks in a different way).

Also in the case of managers, we observe a significant time loss spent on sub-optimal task execution resulting from the adopted work organization method. Here we identify such time eaters as:

  • The need for data collection, consolidation, additional analysis to enable the management of productivity, timeliness & quality of work (goal setting, monitoring, reporting, accounting).
  • The need to organize, monitor data on the status of the implementation of new staff, as well as administrative, analytical activities related to the management of employee competence development.
  • The need to collect data, conduct additional analysis to enable work and holiday planning, resource management, organization of replacements.

How does this translate into the amount of lost time according to the model we’ve developed?

  • In case of a line worker it's 28 hrs/month (approx.17% of the working month).
  • In case of a manager, it's 16 hrs/month (approx.10% of the working month).

An example. Continuing with the above example of an organization (50 line workers, 10 person team, 5 managers), due to these 7 more time eaters the organization loses an additional 1400 hrs/month of working time of line workers and 80 hrs/month of working time of managers. This translates into more than 8 FTEs line worker job and almost 0.5 FTEs manager job (considering the aforementioned assumption of 168 working hrs/month). 

How to eliminate time eaters? 

In total, as a result of all 14 time eaters, the losses are as below: 

  • in case of line worker, it's 43.75 hrs/month. (about 26% of the working month).
  • in case of a manager: 42.25 hrs/month. (about 26% of the working month). 

An example. In this example organization, all 14 time eaters result in loss of nearly 2200 hrs/month of working time of line workers and more than 210 hrs/month of working time of managers, which translates into more than 13 FTEs line worker jobs and 1.25 FTEs manager jobs (assuming 168 hrs of working time/month). 

In total, the described 14 time eaters cost such an organization nearly PLN 1.3 million per year (assuming an average remuneration: about PLN 7,000 for a line worker and PLN 12,000 for a manager).

While the 7 time eaters of the teams' current work are low-hanging apples (to be eliminated quickly & "easily" within a few weeks), the work time eaters resulting from a sub-optimal method of its organization can be eliminated in the medium term (a few months).

What to do with the time freed up? Both in case of managers & line workers it can be allocated to, f. e.: development, actions targeted at increasing quality, giving greater value to the organization (customer retention, after-sales), the implementation of additional tasks related to increasing the scale, optimization activities. 

The freed time allows for the execution of more work by the same team - thanks to this we can save on the costs of recruiting new staff and use the saved funds, f.e., to pay rises for current staff. In this way we provide funds for the salary increase expected by staff without expenses. These are just a few selected ways to use the time or energy freed up.

How much the time eaters cost you? How much can you gain by eliminating them? How to achieve it? 

Check it out using our calculator: www.harmodesk.com/calc