Delegating work to team members in a way that does not overburden them is not an easy task. As a leader, you not only have to keep your team members focused on their job but also ensure that they are maintaining their productivity and timely delivery. To make this possible, you must divide your team’s workload fairly. Otherwise, your overworked high performers will start harbouring resentment in their minds about doing extra, and you will stand to lose them forever.
Therefore, it is crucial to introduce workload management in the workplace. It not only empowers your employees but also gives them more confidence to work. In this article, we will share expert tips for optimizing your team’s workload management; but let us first understand the concept of workload management.
What is workload management?
Workload management is the process by which you can distribute work strategically among your team members to ensure the highest possible productivity levels. If done perfectly, workload management maximizes employee performance, reduces chaos, boosts confidence, and leaves your team feeling more satisfied at the end of each day rather than overwhelmed. As a result, they start enjoying their job more and deliver higher quality work at a much faster pace.
However, managing the workload in your workplace is more of a thought-out process than just handing out unprioritized tasks to anyone free. Only when you understand your team’s abilities and limitations can you start distributing work to each employee as per their capabilities.
What is the importance of Workload Management in the workplace?
Workload management allows you to handle smoothly those areas that disrupt the successful running of projects. It gives you an excellent framework for:
● Effectively utilizing your resources
● Optimizing the project schedules
● Managing efficiently time and workload expectations
● Keeping the projects on track as well as on budget
If you can create and follow a process that focuses on these elements, you can prioritize your tasks better and balance your team’s schedules. Failing to do so can result in a handful of stressed-out employees who can deliver a higher quality of work but are rendered inefficient due to unrealistic deadlines and excessive workloads. According to a report by Asana, 71% of the workers experienced burnout in 2020, whereas the number of employees working late was 87%.
More recent research shows that 82% of employees feel less engaged at work due to work pressure and stress. Successful workload management enables you to effectively distribute the tasks across your team members by creating space in their schedules to deliver their best work. Companies that fail to do so will face workload imbalance. Let us now see what the things that cause workload imbalance are.
How can you identify the signs of workload imbalance within your team?
When there is a workload imbalance within your team, you can identify it from the subtle signs they give out.
Breakdown in Communication
One of the first signs of unbalanced workload within the team is reflected in a slow communication breakdown between the team members. When this happens, some team members end up being left out of meaningful conversations related to the project, hindering your entire team’s workflow. To bring everyone back on the same page, reevaluate the communication practices and ensure everyone is aware of them. For instance, Google has clearly defined their communication practices and the steps for communicating workplace problems/concerns in its Code of Conduct.
Unequal Work Pressure
Another sign is when only a few of your team members work significantly more than others in similar roles. The best practice would be to allow your employees to dedicate 80% of their time to work on specific, assigned tasks and use the remaining time for administrative purposes. However, scope creep is inevitable when your team is on a lean budget or has moderate resources, and the client’s expectations are too high.
You should always make sure that your star performers are ready to handle the additional projects efficiently. Else, you can modify deadlines, shift tasks around, request additional resources to reduce their stress or compensate them fairly to avoid frustration.
Workload imbalance in the workplace is the last thing that any company wants within their teams. However, as more organizations become flat by moving away from typical top-down, boss-driven work environments, the unbalanced workload is increasing day by day. More and more employees are left on their own to balance their workload.
What can you do when such signs of an unbalanced workload start showing?
When the signs of unbalanced workload start to show, you can follow these steps to reduce its effects:
Introduce Workload Management in Your Workplace
If the workload is not distributed evenly across your team, start practising workload management. You can allocate some tasks to the comparatively less busy employees. However, it might not be possible if you have a conflict of skills or experience. In such cases, you might delegate the work to freelancers or shift employees between different projects.
Alternatively, suppose your entire team is overworked due to inept estimates or changes in requirements, not because of a bottleneck within the team members. In that case, you can try to negotiate the schedule of the project with the client.
Suppose it is not possible to extend the deadline. In that case, you can try to compress project duration by fast-tracking, which allows you to overlap specific tasks that you had initially planned to do one after another. There are various ways of dealing with workload issues once they start happening. However, it is always better to prevent them in advance. That is why a data-driven approach and an encouraging team culture can prove to be significant ineffective workload management.
Keep Yourself Prepared In Advance for Challenges
Many companies follow seasonal patterns in workload spikes, and it is easy to uncover these patterns. Tracking your team’s historical utilization can reveal some valuable workload insights.
Iwona from Le Polish Bureau said in an interview that after analyzing their historical timesheet data, they were able to spot trends regarding particular roles. They found that specific skills were in higher demand in specific periods. Based on this insight, they could make plans to hire new people in advance.
Another way of preparing yourself for challenges is to analyze the production pipeline of your company closely. It is always better to know what kind of projects can be expected to come in the coming weeks or months in a multi-project agency setting. Then you get the chance to verify if your team’s current workload capacity is enough to deliver them all.
Always Keep In Mind Your Team’s Culture
Usually, people do not ask for help when the initial signs of workload imbalance start appearing. Often, you come to know of their issues only when they underperform, get burnt out or think of leaving your company. Therefore, it is crucial to communicate directly and lay down your expectations.
You can encourage knowledge-sharing, praise your strong performers, and most importantly, address even the minor issues promptly. This way, you will be able to show that you care for your employees’ well-being.
There is no doubt that it is near impossible to achieve a perfectly balanced workload. However, the right combination of performance management and resource management, along with a productive culture, can help you identify the challenges early and take precautions.
How can you help your employees in managing their workload?
If your organization has a flat structure, your team members are already proactive in managing their workloads, and the right company culture can set them up for success. Here are some ways in which you can help your employees in managing their workload:
Identify Stress from Overload
“It’s a leadership trait to know what it looks like when you’re getting the best from people,” says Debbie Rosemont, Productivity Consultant and Certified Professional Organizer at the business consulting firm Simply Placed.
She advises people to ask and enquire the moment they feel something is off. Encouraging teams and individual employees to be honest about work overload is okay, but you also need to look for clues yourself because some people never speak up even if they are too overwhelmed or stressed. So checking in with employees and watching for signs of stress and overload is highly advisable. Also, encouraging employees to gauge their capacity and incentivizing them to inform you of their problems are good management practices.
Ensure Task Prioritization
From our experiences in Dovico, we have seen that when the leader within a flat organization prioritizes the work at hand, his/her teammates find it much easier to balance their workloads, even when work comes in from all directions. It has been seen that usually, the hard-working people get to work on important tasks whereas under tasked staff members get to work on things that might not serve any purpose in the project, company goals, or priorities. It can be that your team might not know how to prioritize tasks, and it is your responsibility to ensure that the tasks are appropriately prioritized so that every employee knows what to do.
There was a time when multitasking was a highly desired attribute. However, today it is considered as a pathway to inefficiency. Priority tasks require complete focus and dedication. Numerous studies have proven that an individual’s brain cannot concentrate or focus on multiple thinking activities at a time. Multitasking is essentially a waste of time, and hence, you should try to discourage it as much as possible if you want the best results from your employees.
If your employees fail to take good care of themselves, they end up being depleted. Dovico, a people-first company, believes in the personal well-being of all team members over the desire to grow profits and job titles. When everyone is appropriately nourished, hydrated and lives an active lifestyle, the entire team becomes better decision-makers, and in turn, the company as a whole prospers. Profitability and job growth become a natural byproduct of a healthy team.
Therefore, if you want to get the best performance from your employees, practice workload management in your workplace, various workload management tools can provide you with real-time insight into the tasks that your team is handling.
What are Workload Management tools & how can they help you?
Workload management tools help in understanding and tracking assignments, deadlines, and resources. These tools can support your team in the following ways:
● Resource management tools allow you to see the entire picture of resource allocations and facilitate resource shuffling when situations change.
● Automation software enables the routing of tasks to employees according to their capabilities or capacity. Automation can also increase back-office output and help with prioritizing and tracking.
● A work and resource management platform help in anticipating problems by divulging historical patterns of peak activity for roles and teams.
● A tracking system can track employee work patterns. While discussing necessary performance improvements, this data can help you keep the discussion objective and professional.
Workload management tools are essential. However, if someone is already overwhelmed, you cannot just expect them to fix everything by giving them an app or a software license. Systems, habits, proper communication are essential for increased productivity. Any project management communication tool is effective only when an employee is allowed to say ‘I’m overwhelmed’ or ‘My workload is out of control.’
In the end, the only thing that you should remember is that it is impossible to achieve the ideal, balanced and perfect managerial level. You might face serious problems that might set you back after achieving several milestones. However, instilling resilience and tenacity within yourself is the key to achieving success. Take all criticisms with a grain of salt and continue doing what you do best at your workplace.