Saturday, October 3, 2009

Time scheduling for IT Staff

Information Technology (IT) staff often must juggle both daily demands of user requests and daily repair activities, with long term projects like upgrade testing, capacity planning and new feature evaluation. These two distinct types of work are difficult to juggle, in addition to a never ending array of meetings, office interruptions and service outages. Many IT jobs today are high stress, both because of the level of work to be completed, but as well as the chronic mis-management of time, creating both higher stress levels and lower productivity levels.

As with all professions, the goal with time management, by both staff and management should be to minimize context switching. A context switch is each time a person must change from one task to another; this can include changing project focus, phone calls, office interruptions or stopping a task to goto a meeting. By limiting context switching IT management can allow more time for staff to focus, and provide them clearer blocks of time to complete their work, in a more efficient way.

It is quite common within the IT space to schedule meetings mid-day as well as pull staff into meetings during the day. This is quite disruptive and often not necessary. It is important that managers within IT organizations clearly define what constitutes an emergency and how to properly justify pulling staff away from their daily work load versus planning for a meeting in the future.

Suggestions for minimizing interruptions and increasing time utilization:

Meeting Free Days – Blocking out days specifically for meetings will allow the remaining days to be used by staff to focus, free of interruptions on long term projects, research and other work that is more efficiently completed during a focused period of time.

Set Aside Time for Ticket Based Work – It is very common for IT organizations to have a ticket tracking system to handle incoming requests and common tasks. This should be monitored by a dedicated person; if that is not possible time should be dedicated for other staff for monitoring. Tracking and managing many small requests in the middle of project based work is very disruptive and negatively affects productivity on the long term projects.

Clearly Defined Office Hours – Clearly defining staff's office hours can set a stage for limiting interruptions to minimal times within the day and giving staff dedicated time for focusing on ticket based work and project based work. This will ensure that staff are available for drop in discussions, but that these do not dominate their available time.

Staff Privacy – One method to ensure IT staff can focus and ensure time is used properly is giving IT staff a private office and workspace. All IT jobs require some level of collaboration, but they also require time to focus on projects and work as an individual. This focus requires a place free of interruptions like ringing phones, conference calls, others talking in the hall way and side discussions.

Within IT, time management is important to ensure staff can properly focus on both daily needs as well as long term projects and goals. By minimizing context switching by the use for dedicated blocks of time, staff can have better focus and concentration on their projects, and ensuring completion on time and minimal delay and interruptions.

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