So why would we want to do a time study for the Admin/support team, after all they are a non-chargeable resource?
Well, there are various reasons for doing this. The main reason is that admin carries such varied roles and is often unpredictable day to day. With the best planning possible, a day can be “hijacked” from the outset with more urgent duties required, unexpected visits or calls from clients with queries, fee earners requiring assistance with a task, all of these eat into the pre-planned day. In fact, multiple interruptions can completely sabotage best laid plans. That in itself is perfectly fine, and totally expected, after all that is what they are there for. The difficulty comes when the team are always too busy but unsure why and what is taking their time. This becomes frustrating for the management team and often for the Admin team themselves, as freeing up time to concentrate on work that is required becomes unachievable.
Charnwood Accountants experienced these issues and so we decided to take a closer look and were surprised by the results. We asked our Admin team to complete daily timesheets, nothing complicated, but just using the 5 bar gate method of noting every 15 minute period of their working day, so allocating 15 minutes to whatever job they are currently working on. We split our time study sheets into the following categories:- Telephone; Sorting Post; Letters, Meeting Notes, Client Care (meet & greet & making/clearing drinks); Answering Emails; Chasing Client Information; Work from Client Managers; Special Work (i.e. company formations/share work etc.); General Client Work (Practice Manager); Training; Marketing; IT Issues; even Personal/Day Dreaming to cater for totally expected and essential chatter and “me time”, and of course Unknown for the time left in the day unaccounted for!!
The week didn’t go as planned. The team were left with time at the end of the day and unsure where to allocate it, Unknown? Personal/Day Dreaming? … crikey we can’t put 1.5 hours to that!! The answer is yes you can, be honest, if not being honest it really doesn’t help to resolve the issues.
So, we had a chat. We agreed to concentrate more on accurately allocating time spent throughout the day, and were surprised that at the end of week 2, more time was allocated to Answering Emails, General Client work (PM etc.), Personal/Day dreaming and still a larger than required amount of Unknown. We discussed answering emails, general client work and prioritising these, do emails need answering instantly? Does general client work (mainly practice manager related) need to be done every day or can less urgent tasks be rolled forward? What is being allocated to Unknown? This should be occasional but not a chunk every day, try allocating it somewhere to be analysed. We also discussed that if too busy, then delegate a task to another team member.
Week 3, results! Barely any Unknown time, less Answering Emails (3x a day is sufficient to check or a real time eater), much less Client PM work which can be caught up at quieter times, and less Personal/Day dreaming time. On discussion this was found to be really helpful to the team as they could clearly see where their time was going, and what areas they needed to focus on more, without being told what they should be doing. They all said it helped identify that they were not as time efficient as they could be, and that it was all too easy to under utilise time by “being busy” without actually knowing what they were doing. By the end of the 2 week trial everyone felt they were managing their time more efficiently and became more proactive and organised. The delegation of tasks was only utilised in extreme cases, as each member asked themselves “am I more busy than anyone else, or can I actually do this?” before passing on.
We do this exercise twice a year now, just to re-focus the mind and keep efficient.
If you would like to know more about our admin time study then please get in touch with us;
Call: 01509 621833