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Let downtime work for your team

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

What does your team do when there's nothing to do? In some settings, down­time is a rare and treasured respite, but in oth­ers, it happens every day. Here are suggestions for turning downtime into quality time:

Be careful with "busy work." Social interaction among team members helps build team bonds and allows knowledge to be shared. As one manager puts it, "I realized that the storytelling during downtime was the real training program within the com­pany." Before coming up with new tasks for idle hands, ask yourself if the "busy work" is more valuable than these other benefits.

Mix up job responsibilities. Use down­time as an opportunity to delegate some of your tasks, or to cross-train team members to do each other's work. Start with tasks that can be accomplished in a single sitting, or else the new work may end up cutting into time that's already being used productively.

Let your team get creative. If downtime is a fact of your team's work life, then ask the team for suggestions on what they'd like to be doing with it. A bored employee is a de-moti­vated employee; let your team members find ways to use downtime creatively, and they'll stay more engaged and satisfied.

Appearance isn't everything. Unless your team's in public view of customers, don't worry about them not looking busy. If you put too much emphasis on appearances, your team may respond by appearing to be pro­ductive, while actually sacrificing efficiency.

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