Time is one of the most valuable concepts developed by mankind. It helps us with the daily routine of our lives and business operations. Its value must be managed and guarded in order to use it to its full potential.
When I was in middle school, a band director used to say, “to be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late; to be late is better than to never have arrived at all.” It has been many years since I first heard this concept of time, yet it has served me well in relating it to a work schedule and the operation of a bookshop. Time is constantly passing by, and you can never get it back. Whether you used time wisely or not, you can’t get it back. Whether someone stole time from you or you freely gave it without guarding it; you can’t get that time back.
Boundaries with time are some of the most complex issues that need to be addressed in the workplace. On the one hand, you want to use time to its maximum potential. On the other hand, you do not want to over step your boundaries into those of others.
Worker’s Personal Time
It has been my experience that some managers do not ever present their standards of expectation or boundaries in a documented form that can be referred to when needed. Consequently, they have no boundaries in the manner that they relate to their workers nor their worker’s time.
For instance, a bookshop worker is at a public table within the bookshop 10 to 15 minutes before their shift work begins. They are checking on their personal messages from their email and social media. Yet, the manager approaches them with books that need to be re-shelved and tasks to do “for when your shift begins”. Yet the manager is going to be in the bookshop when the worker’s work shift begins; they will not be out of the bookshop or in a meeting. In this case, that manager is stealing the personal time of their worker. They are being self-centered towards themselves or the company, and forcing the company time unto the worker’s personal time; this is unethical and uncalled for. An alternative to this case is to place the books that need to be re-shelved at the worker’s station and leave a note that clearly states the tasks that need to be done by that worker when their shift begins. Another approach may be to simply approach the worker when their shift begins or have a set protocol for a worker to check-in with the manager to see if there are any “additional” tasks that need to be done out of their normal routine work.
Another issue regarding time is multi-tasking. In some bookshops, both the manager and workers share the duty of performing certain tasks. The work proportion is not always equal, yet, the tasks still get done. Nonetheless, when you are multi-tasking your roles, time is of a priority in regards to serving your customers.
For instance, in a bookshop, two workers and a manger perform the work tasks, yet only the manager shares the duel role of performing tasks that are directly related to books and the coffee bar. On a certain day, the coffee bar worker is out and the manger is filling in for this role and related tasks. Yet, because the manager has their own personal agenda of getting some university-level work done, they go into their office, in the back area of the bookshop to get it done. Consequently, the book worker now has the added task of going to the office to call on the manger and leaving a customer or set of customers waiting for service.
In this case, it is unethical behavior on the behalf of the manger and it is costly on time of the company and that of the customer or set of customers. A simple resolution to this case may be applied. The manager can move their essential material to a table or workstation that is nearest to the coffee bar. When a customer approaches the coffee bar, then the manager can quickly state, “I will be right with you”, and make their way to the work area of the coffee bar to fulfill the order. Consequently, time is saved by reducing both the displacement of time and distance between the manager and the coffee bar. In addition, the customer or set of customers receive a message that their time is valuable to this company and will be encouraged to return again.
A simple manner of saving a customer’s time is by dressing like a worker of the bookshop. If a customer walks into the bookshop in a rush, searching for a worker will come easy to them. They will be able to purchase what they need and be on their way quickly and without much delay. It has been my observation that when a manager and workers dress like their customers, they are less likely to be identified or approached by customers. In addition, customers and both managers and workers are less likely to hold to their professional work boundaries with each other.
In addition to proper work apparel, a physical and verbal technique to the customer also saves the customer time. For instance, if you are sitting at a table that is several feet from the door, greeting with a “Hi” or “Hello”, then approaching them with the question “May I help you find something special?” or “How can I help you?”. By using this approach, you are catching the visual attention then verbally identifying yourself as a worker of the bookshop.
Opening and Closing the Bookshop
One good way to use company time efficiently is to have set tasks for opening and closing the bookshop. For instance, in opening the bookshop, the worker can walk to the worker area where they can leave their personal belongings. Then they can turn-on all the lights of the bookshop. Next they can both count and stock the register with cash. Then they can check that both the register and credit card reader (if separate) have enough paper to complete transactions. The worker can do a walk through the bookshop and adjust tables, chairs, and books as needed. Finally, they can put out sidewalk signs (if applicable) and open the bookshop doors for business.
For closing the bookshop, the list of tasks can be similar to that of opening the bookshop. However, extra time should be allocated to cleaning tables and surfaces, as well as some sweeping or mopping before the end of the work day. Performing these tasks will save time for the worker who opens in the morning, but also serve as a safe-guard of time, should there be a change of worker due to an emergency or there is a delay from arriving on time to the bookshop.
Efficiency and Projects
Efficiency in time can be used on medium and large projects. For instance, if you received a shipment of coffee, tea, and books, two workers can work in processing the order through item verification with the order list, inspection for damages, storage, pricing, and shelving of the merchandise. If one person were to be assigned to perform all of these tasks, it might take them their whole work shift, especially if they also have to multi-task their regular job duties and attend to customers.
Time consistency is important when operating a bookshop. One way to start is by posting your hours of operation where they can be seen by everyone. Stay consistent on the time your bookshop is open and closed. Customers need to witness that your time is valuable to you as much as it is to them. For instance, if closing time is approaching, and there are still customers in the bookshop, you need to make an announcement or approach them to notify them of the time remaining to finish making their purchases as well the closing of the store. If closing time has arrived and a customer or set of customers is slow to move, gather their things or is using the restroom before leaving, then lock the doors and stand by them. Doing so will allow your customers to learn to respect the boundaries of time and operation of your bookshop. In addition, the same message is sent to a potential customer who is negligent of the time of day and simply tries to pull on the door to get in. If you don’t guard your time, people will try to stretch your boundaries to their own and cause you to loose control of the operations of your bookshop.
In closing, time is one of the most important issues with the inner and outer workings of your bookshop. You have to have boundaries for it in respect to yourself, workers, most importantly your customers. If you learn to guard your time and balance it well, you will do well in managing your bookshop as well as relating with your customers.
© copyright 2005 - 2021;
R. A. Gómez