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Opinion: Slow day at the office? Here’s how to rescue it

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No matter the size of your company, there will be times when your office team is underutilized. You notice them scrolling their social media feeds or shopping on Amazon.

Your job is to help them be productive and successful. Lots of meaningful work helps the day go by quickly, increases morale and leaves little time for complaining or gossiping.

Here are some tips for keeping the office crew busy.

First, set the expectations. There are several ways to do that.

• Update your organizational chart and communicate the multiple positions your office team members occupy. They may flip between customer service representative, dispatcher, information technology technician and bookkeeper.

• Let all team members know that every position description includes “projects as assigned.”

• Review the Steps of Delegation section. Discuss how starting with the basic journalism questions – who, what, where, by when, why, how much and how – will help define the scope of projects big and small. This will keep you from disappointing each other when you assign projects.

• Communicate that there are slow days and hair-on-fire-busy days in the industry. It’s the way it goes, and when it’s slow, we find ways to stay busy.

• Spend time one on one with team members. Find out what they want to do with their lives, beyond what is obvious at work. Your project assignments could be aligned with their next step career goals.

Next, create a written list of projects to be done between regularly assigned duties or when the phone isn’t ringing. Ask your team for their ideas, too.

• Listen to past calls, and role-play with “if I could do it over” responses. Call back people who didn’t schedule and take another swing.

• Call customers and say thank you and ask for testimonials. You may offer an additional service or announce a new product.

• Crank up the social media. I bet you have at least one staff member who loves social media. Pick that person to be responsible for posting a short video or picture of what your team is up to today. Or to share customer posts. Yes, you need guidelines for what is appropriate.

• Formalize, write, update, properly save and distribute the manuals. For each position on the org chart, there should be a position description and a manual. The position description is a list of responsibilities. The manuals are a collection of procedures for how to do that for which you are responsible. Even the tightest operations have a long list of manual updates that need to be done, including social media protocol.

• Look for ways to automate. Housekeeping can be tedious, so green-light some time for exploring software or new processes that make shorter work of tiresome tasks.

• Cross-train for additional positions. Partner up team members to review the manuals and practice procedures that are new to them.

• Encourage, and pay for, online classes to develop new skills or help them get a college diploma or a master’s degree.

• Clean! Pick a closet, drawer or small area of the office. Have them empty out, clean and organize the space. Restock with the essential supplies or inventory. Take pictures to verify what it should look like from this point forward. Cleaning is my personal all-time favorite time-filler. Clean is always good; dirty is always bad.

• Do something just for fun as a team. Office chair races, scavenger hunts or burgers on the grill.

This list will get you started. Remember, you can also send someone home. Every now and then, it’s nice to take an early day to spend time alone or with the family.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.

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