Understanding the resources you have available in your team at any one time is elementary. If you don’t get your capacity planning right, it can completely break your projects – so you either ask for more time, offer up something half-baked or eat into your own profits. But ttracking team capacity is also crucial for managing employee wellbeing and performance – as pandemic remote working is demonstrating. If you don’t know the hours, workloads, plans or patterns your team is dealing with, you can’t keep them aligned, improve their experience or protect them from burnout. So what’s the best way to manage team capacity?
Capacity planning is often associated with project management, as a key component of delivering timely, profitable project work. But beyond projects, not knowing the current status of your team’s capacity can be dangerous for your entire business. It makes absolutely no sense to hire people for their skills and then not engage them effectively – or to overload them to breaking point.
A huge part of team capacity is undeniably logistical – it’s about distributing tasks intelligently, mapping out all project work, absorbing the risk of absences, building flexibility into your plans, and working efficiently within the bounds of your productivity. But employee experience, health and engagement also depend on keeping team capacity transparent. It’s hard to help employees maintain healthy work/life balance, stick to manageable workloads, find enjoyment in their work or access challenging new projects without a clear understanding of team capacity.
This is particularly pertinent for navigating remote team management in our current environment. Virtual presenteeism, overworking, invisibility, protracted uncertainty and remote worker mental health all need to be addressed – and while managing team capacity may only offer one very small means for doing so, it packs quite a punch for its size.
Managing team capacity sounds complex, but with the right tool it can be remarkably simple. Many team time management tools (as well as some project management software) offer this feature, albeit with slightly different UI. To give you an idea of how tracking team capacity works, here’s what it looks like inside automatic time tracking app Timely.
Your time management app should have a section dedicated to managing team performance. In Timely, this is the People page and it’s from here that you can set capacity for your team. This is set by default to 40 hours/week, but you creat a new blanket total. In case you are working with consultants or part-time staff, you can also set individual capacity for different employees.
How you monitor and manage team capacity will depend on whether you want to see a short- or long-term overview of team activity. Luckily, it’s easy adjust to a weekly or monthly view. The weekly capacity view can help you organize and plan for approaching events, while the monthly view gives you a broader picture of work patterns – helping you spot serial over-working and employees at risk of burn out. It also helps you identify with a fluctuating workload, working inconsistent hours.
A good team time management app should make it easy to quickly gauge team capacity, without having to dig for answers. Timely uses intuitive visual cues to make the whole thing simple. Against every employee you’ll find the total number of logged hours they’ve logged and a capacity bar showing how much of their weekly or daily capacity they have used. The capacity bar uses colors to quickly communicate critical KPIs: dark blue indicates hours logged to billable work; light blue indicates hours logged to non-billable work; red indicates overtime, or all hours that are logged over the capacity limit – both for billable and non-billable work.
Aside from immediately spotting struggling employees or review overall team performance, there are several other contexts in which tracking team capacity brings tremendous benefit – for both employees and managers. The most important applications include:
Having a real-time record of your daily logged hours and weekly capacity is extremely useful as an employee – particularly for preventing burnout. Many newly remote employees are finding it hard to set boundaries between work and personal time, losing sight of exactly how much they’re working. When you consider that even established remote workers tend to work longer hours than in-office ones, distributed teams need to take extra effort to keep work hours visible. In addition to showing employees where they are against their capacity, Timely also warns them whenever they log a timesheet entry beyond their weekly total.
Understanding team capacity lets you accurately plan for the future. For example, if you’ve landed an important new client and are about to start work on a new project, you’ll need to give an accurate estimate of when you’ll be able to deliver. By examining team capacity, you can see what each employee has been spending most of their time on and how much capacity they have. If you see that one employee has just wrapped a big project but still had some capacity, you’ll be able to determine that they’ll definitely have time to work on this new job. Doing this for all employees is quick and simple, and will allow you to figure out who’s available and who’s not over the next few months.
Without knowing team capacity, it’s hard to ensure an even distribution of work, or quickly adapt resources to cover unexpected team absences. With an intelligent team planning tool, you can keep each employee’s workload in focus, assigning tasks across your team without overloading or overlooking anyone. It can also be used to signal team availability and see who’s in the office, with planned absences mapped out in advance to minimize scheduling surprises.