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Changing the way we work: Increasing productivity in a marketing agency

Work/Life Balance / 8.28.23 / By Jenna Page

In our industry, productivity is a non-negotiable trait. But studies show that the average employee is productive for only 2 hours and 53 minutes a day—31% of the average eight-hour workday. With stress and constant distractions as top contributors to decreased productivity (every 3 minutes, on average), how can we change the way we work so we’re more intentional with our time, team members, dollars and resources?

It’s not so much about how many projects you’re managing at once or how many hours your team puts in, but about how they take an average workday and workweek and work smarter within those timeframes. This certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but it is something on the minds of agencies and clients alike. On the road to increasing productivity, here are a few practical ways we’re working smarter at DS+CO—and your team can, too.

Lean On Workflow Tools

Leverage technology and use workflow tools to help track and manage tasks and projects. Software like Asana, Trello, Jira and Smartsheet (we use these last two) can help your team visualize their workload, keep track of deadlines and collaborate more effectively. With real-time updates and transparency, it’s easier to monitor progress and identify any potential roadblocks before they become problematic. Our very own Shane Grant, managing director of operations, said it best: “Many people confuse a tool with a process. Processes should exist, and tools should help facilitate those processes.”

Block Your Time

Time blocking is a time-management strategy where you schedule out every part of your day into bite-size timeslots. Check email, work on projects, take breaks, exercise, etc. This works great for individuals who desire organization and a plan (100% me), but also at the agency level with company-wide adoption that empowers and encourages team members to reduce noise and increase flow.

At DS+CO, we observe “Focus Time” every Tuesday and Thursday from 1-3pm, when our teams are working in flow, individually or together, and meetings aren’t scheduled. And any emails or messages deemed as “noise” are sent at the very beginning of the day, right before the lunch hour, or at the very end of the day to decrease distraction and align with times when most people are checking email. We all benefit from space in our day to stay focused, find room to think and create, and collaborate with the right people about the right things.

Establish Clear Communication Channels

Without efficient communication, a smooth operation is practically impossible. So it’s helpful to have designated channels for different types of communication and levels of importance. You might use Microsoft Teams for general questions, quick conversations or to send an encouraging word to a team member, and have Slack channels or use the comments section in software like Jira for project updates. Setting expectations for internal response times is a great way to increase your team’s productivity, as well. We’ve established a two-hour response time for a chat or mobile text and 24 hours for email, and we ask people to call if something is an emergency or urgent. Based on what you need and when you need it, you can select the best channel to clearly communicate with your team.

Foster a Collaborative Environment

Different members of each team bring various strengths and expertise to the table. Not only does collaboration boost creativity, but it speeds up problem-solving and decision-making. This can be done through group chats, asking questions and leaving space (often deemed “awkward silence”) for others to process information and gain clarity and confidence, or even status meetings, for example. At DS+CO, we use context setting and roadmapping sessions to engage with all functions needed to complete a project. Setting aside time for these interactive working sessions is a great way to allow all team members to ask their questions, understand the “why” and the “what” they’re creating, and foster collaboration and ownership over the delivery of the work.

Regularly Review + Reprioritize

Make it a habit to regularly review your workload and deadlines—then plan, develop, review and repeat. Instead of a to-do list, try creating a priority list with three main priorities for any given day or week, then adjust and reorder them as needed. By focusing on just a few priorities at once, you can avoid the mental clutter a never-ending to-do list creates.

Shane’s advice? It’s simple: “Use your workflow tools and check your own individual priorities three times each day. First thing in the morning, just before lunch and just before you end the day. This should cut down on noise throughout the day and provide structure to help keep you focused on making the work.”

As we continue to work smarter as a marketing agency, we in turn increase productivity, creating more room to grow and even greater work for our clients, who trust us to spend time and resources well. How’s your organization working smarter? We’d love to talk.


Jenna Page