Over the last few years, we have learned that business growth doesn’t just mean more people, it unavoidably also means more complexity — more questions, more reminders. More. Pings.
Pinging your fellow collaborators everytime you have a question is not only time consuming and mentally draining, it also poses a serious threat to the productivity and creative work of the incredibly talented people we consider our most valuable asset.
As our digital product agency grows, DockYard Project Managers have started taking cues from the UX playbook when solving for common communication pitfalls, from conference call habits to calendar management. We have found that a system of information exchange for our specific use case — a growth-phase, remote digital design and software consulting company — must prioritize discoverability.
A system high in discoverability means that our project teammates, peers, and managers can access and make use of the information they need to do their jobs at whatever time works best for them, at minimal distraction to others. Below are the simplest but most significant behaviors for calendar management that will help your coworkers collaborate without a single ping. Save the disruptions for the important stuff.
Where else to start besides at the beginning? If you are invited to an event, your presence is assumed mandatory unless specified otherwise. If you have a conflict, it is helpful to the organizer to provide them with that information as soon as possible so they can reschedule if needed. There is a group of people out there relying on you — no response is not okay.
Whether we’re talking about morning dailies, lunch plans, or a dentist appointment for your dog (okay, my dog) — if an event is non-negotiable to you, and it takes place during core work hours, you need to put it on your schedule. No exceptions. Do it as soon as you know about it so you don’t forget — don’t wait until someone books a meeting at that time and you have to ask to reschedule. People hate that (Okay, people is me. I hate that.).
This detail is so sneaky that it warrants highlighting in its own section. Always include travel time to and from your destination. And try to be realistic about traffic. Being away from work is fine, but your teammates need to know when to expect you back. Unless you actually want someone scheduling calls with you right up until you walk into your doctor’s office, you need to block off the time you will be en route, as well.
Out of Office
If you will not be in-office, your calendar should reflect that as clearly as possible. For example, say you’ve just called in sick, submitted a PTO request, or you’ve just booked your ticket for a conference or client onsite. Your next step is to head directly to your calendar and manually block off the working hours for each day that you will be out of office. In Google Calendar, this will automatically decline any invites during the blocked time and will display a large and obvious block to anyone looking to book some time with you. They will move on to look for another day, crisis averted.
Your team needs to see the information on your calendar. For an easy example, if a time-sensitive conversation needs to get shoe-horned in, your team will be looking for lower priority items that are good candidates to get shuffled around. This can be done without conversation if you provide transparency up front. The key is to set your calendar to public — this is the default setting in Google Calendar — and only mark private those events containing sensitive information. Everything else is likely useful to someone.
Enable Working Hours
As a remote team spanning time zones across the United States and Europe, we keep shifted schedules for maximum collaboration time, but there are subtleties to folks’ schedules that no one could possibly ever memorize. If you work in Google Calendar, and if you work with other people at all, go into your Settings right now and set your working hours. Once these are set, anyone trying to book time with you that falls outside your preferred hours will get an alert, which means they can recalibrate their expectations without you struggling to find a way to politely dispute their choice of time.
DockYard is a digital product agency offering custom software, mobile, and web application development consulting. We provide exceptional professional services in strategy, user experience, design, and full stack engineering using Ember.js and Elixir. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the U.S., including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York.