If there is one thing both managers and workers agree on, it is this: In order to encourage productivity, create an environment where people can reach or exceed goals, and avoid cases of work-related burnout, workloads must be managed.
Every industry copes with how to assign and manage work across teams and individuals efficiently. Successful workload management is the foundation of a smooth-running venture poised for meeting performance metrics and engendering growth. When workload management falls short, however, managers and employees alike replace confidence with feelings of overwhelm, and productivity is overshadowed by frustration or even fear.
This article addresses the challenges of managing workloads and offers:
- An overview of why workload management is vital to every company’s success and how to assess the workloads of employees
- Information on how business owners and team managers can help lift the burden from employees struggling to keep up with deadlines and deliverables
- Tools to help employees climb out of work overload situations
- Valuable tips for effective workload management
- A discussion of time management’s role in preventing work overload
- An introduction to how working offering employee access to a digital coaching platform can help streamline solutions and empower managers and workers alike
Why Managing Workloads is Important
Effective workload management can make or break an employee’s productivity and a company’s bottom line. The negative impact of overburdening individuals — whether C-suite executives, directors, managers, or frontline employees — can tank productivity and sabotage morale. Potential adverse effects of failing to manage workloads effectively include:
- A stressed-out workforce that is unhappy, irritable, and less engaged
- Burned-out managers and workers with resulting severe emotional and physical symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and fatigue
- Employees who take their stress home, negatively impacting their relationships
- Lowered productivity combined with an increase in on-the-job errors, which can be costly to the enterprise
On the other hand, employing sound workload management techniques can reduce, if not eliminate, these negative effects. People who effectively manage their workloads and deliver results on time and within budget tend to feel powerful, competent, and successful. Success breeds success, so the more empowered every staff member feels, the more they will produce, the better the quality of what they produce, and the more likely the company as a whole will do.
How to Help an Employee Struggling with Workloads
Usually, effective workload management begins with a top-down approach. Unless and until the individuals assigning the work realize there is a problem — and take affirmative steps to address the problem — all the tips in the world to help employees work smarter and more efficiently won’t matter. It’s up to managers and team leaders to take the lead in workload management. As a manager, you can start with the following:
- Stop encouraging your team members to multitask. Very few people can engage in tasks simultaneously and do them all well. Some people argue there is no such thing as multitasking. Instead, it’s a way to give too little attention to too many things in quick succession. Instead, encourage employees to focus on one thing at a time so that they can do that one thing well. And while you’re at it, consider all requests to reduce workloads. Your employees may think they have to multitask because there is just too much on their plates to do with single-tasking.
- Be clear and transparent about priorities and expectations. If, as a manager, you make every task urgent and give them all high priorities, you are only setting your staff member up to fail. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, which tasks need to be accomplished when and in what order.
- Be human. Just like you, your employees will have good and bad days. Sometimes the internet goes down, or there is a backup in work progression because of a mistake or mishap somewhere down the work chain. Be flexible. Be reasonable. Work with your team to find solutions. It will get you better results than merely applying more pressure to get what has become a more difficult job done.
- Implement an open-door policy. When employees know they can come to leaders for assistance, advice, and troubleshooting, they are more likely to bring issues to your attention when they arise, rather than waiting until the problem becomes a crisis. Let them know you are available to help.
- Give your staff the tools they need to succeed. Without the proper resources to do their jobs, you can’t expect any of the strategies to manage workloads that you offer your staff to work. Dedicate a reasonable portion of your budget to seeing that your team has the training, equipment, and project management tools to perform at maximum capacity.
6 Tips on Managing Workloads Effectively
When it comes to how to manage the workload of employees, of course, management can’t solve all of the issues on their own. Each person needs to adopt the best practices to manage their workloads effectively. If you’re trying to find new ways to manage your workload, the following six tips will help:
- Take time to plan. Step back and look at the big picture. Make a list of deliverables and think about how to approach each from a strategic and a tactical standpoint. For strategy, separate each deliverable into a series of tasks, prioritize the tasks, and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to help measure progress. From a tactical standpoint, focus on one deliverable at a time — stop trying to multitask! — as you execute on those KPIs and keep track of deadlines you’ve set.
- Don’t be afraid to pivot. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. If a wrench gets thrown into your strategy, take a deep breath, assess the new situation, and pivot as required.
- Accept your limitations. Nobody can be all things to all people all of the time. Know your strengths and weaknesses, work on improving what you can, and accept that all you can do is put forth your best efforts.
- Play to your strengths and the strengths of your colleagues. To the extent possible, focus on the tasks that allow you to tap into your talents and experiences, and call upon colleagues and team members to contribute more where you may falter. If you’re working independently, consider seeking outside help. There’s no shame in raising your hand and asking for the help you need when you need it.
- Take time off. Sometimes the feeling of work overload can be a precursor to burnout. Everyone needs time to rest and reset. Self-care increases productivity and reduces burnout, which can have devastating consequences for your health and overall well-being. Pay attention to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. We are human beings, not “human doings.” Take time to “be.”
- Speak truth to power. If your boss or team leader is simply piling more work on you than you can manage, tell them. If you find yourself in an environment where seeking help is frowned upon or even punished, think about finding a position where you are free to bring your best self to work without fear or worry that what you have to offer isn’t enough. Look for an empowering environment where requests for help with workload management are heard and met with assistance in finding solutions.
How Time Management Can Provide Busy Workload Solutions
While it’s essential to address how to reduce the workloads of employees, it is also important to look for ways to increase efficiencies, so current workloads are more manageable. Time management is one of the most valuable skills you can learn to make your professional and personal life easier. Simply stated, time management is nothing more than the process of thoughtfully controlling how you spend your time in and out of work.
Time management can be a lifesaver for several reasons:
- Professionally, time management can make you more productive. This often translates into a more enjoyable work experience overall.
- You’ll cut out a lot of unnecessary tasks, freeing you up to do more of the things you enjoy.
- You’ll become more organized overall, reducing the stress that comes with always being in a rush.
Track How You’re Spending Your Time
To get started with time management, use a planner or calendar to track how you’re currently spending your time. You can track your time in 10-minute, 15-minute, 30-minute, or hour-long intervals. The idea is to create a fairly detailed record of how much time you spend on different activities. Be sure to write everything down, even when what you’re doing doesn’t feel very important.
For instance, if you spent 15 minutes looking for your car keys one morning, write that down. Or, if you usually wolf down lunch between 12:15 and 12:30 pm while sitting at your desk looking at emails, write that down too. Maybe your co-workers have gotten into the habit of leaning into your cubicle for little chats here and there. You want to write it all down. You’re bound to learn a few things about how you’re structuring (or neglecting to structure) your day. These realizations can help you change some behaviors and form new habits.
For example, if you see that you’re wasting a couple of hours a week looking for your car keys, you might want to put up a hook to hang your keys on by the front door. Or, if you never take a break at lunch but find that you’re getting tired in the early afternoon, you might want to get out from behind your desk and combine your lunch break with a brisk walk to clear your head and get your blood pumping and your muscles engaged.
And those impromptu chats that interrupt your workflow? They may be interfering with your productivity more than you realize. That’s not to say you should never hang out with your work friends, but if you’re spending so much time conversing with colleagues that your work is falling behind, that is something to notice and address.
Time Management Techniques
Once you know how you’re currently spending your time, consider incorporating any of the following techniques to help you better manage your time:
- Keep a daily planner to map out what you need to accomplish and when each day.
- Keep your workspace and home organized so you can find what you need when you need it.
- Organize your emails into folders so you can find important correspondence on demand.
- Set aside a specific time during the day to review and answer emails and return phone calls.
- Delegate tasks when you can so you can free up time to do the things only you can do.
- Set boundaries with colleagues when necessary to stay on track with your work deadlines.
Seek Professional Help Before Workload Management Gets Out of Control
Every person and organization can use a little outside help once in a while. If your company and employees are struggling with the hows and ifs of reducing workloads, need to help your staff and managers with burnout, are working through change management issues, or could benefit from leadership development training, LeggUP can help. We offer one-on-one professional coaching and several forms of affordable and sustainable company-wide inclusive digital coaching to help you and your team get back on track.