Are you struggling to understand why your team keeps falling behind on deadlines? It might not be what you think.
Sure, you could consider the possibility that they need help with time management. Or you might look into potential distractions like excessive multitasking and unnecessary meetings. But none of that will matter if you don’t first identify and address the root cause. And for that, you’ll need to master workload management.
If you haven’t looked at your employees’ workloads, now’s the time to start. Why? Because an astounding 80% of workers feel stress on the job. And among that number, 41% say it’s caused by workload. By ensuring work is distributed fairly, you can help reduce that stress and increase productivity.
Let’s take a look at the factors that contribute to overload, along with practical solutions for helping employees manage their workloads effectively.
The importance of workload management
In today’s fast-paced work environment, employees often find themselves overwhelmed by heavy workloads — the kind that can lead to lower performance, less engagement and, ultimately, burnout. And unfortunately, it’s a problem most people will face multiple times over the course of their careers.
In one recent survey, 95% of employees said they feel pressured to overwork by either their bosses or a culture that celebrates grueling hours. In another, nearly half reported feeling mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the workday — and another 41% said they’re burned out. (Which, by the way, costs corporations $1.8 trillion in the US alone).
As a manager, it’s your job to watch workloads closely so you know when and how to step in.
Common causes of overwhelming workloads
Workloads build up when an employee’s assignments exceed their capacity, either in terms of how many hours are required or the intensity of the work itself. This can usually be traced back to one of four common causes:
- Some team members take on too much. You know who they are — the employees who always say “yes” and rarely set boundaries. If they’re also reliable and fast, you’re probably tempted to go to them first when there’s a pressing new assignment.
- Some team members have capacity for more. If you don’t like to delegate or tend to go easy on new hires and junior employees, some team members may have too little. If that’s the case, it means others are carrying more of the burden.
- The deadlines are unrealistic. If same-day and next-day turnarounds are the rule rather than the exception, you’re placing constant pressure on employees without offering relief. A steady stream of tight deadlines creates a stressful work environment and can also lead to severe overwhelm.
- The expectations are unclear. A lack of direction can turn a seemingly simple, straightforward task into an overwhelming responsibility. Instead of devoting an hour to get something done, your employee might spend two or three days on research just to figure out what you’re asking of them.
5 effective ways to help employees manage their workloads
The best way to help employees reduce workloads that have become too heavy? Make adjustments until every member of your team has just the right amount of work — enough to be engaged, but not so much they’re constantly overworked. Here are five strategies you can use.
1. Master workload distribution
Workload distribution is one of the best ways to help employees struggling with excessive workloads. By regularly evaluating who’s working on what, you can correct imbalances as they occur to ensure tasks are assigned in a way that’s fair and efficient.
Many managers take this one step further by using workforce analytics software to see when someone’s working longer-than-usual days. These tools can also reveal which team members are being underutilized and have capacity to take on more work.
2. Foster open communication
Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and providing feedback is crucial in managing workload challenges. Regular check-ins, team meetings and one-on-one sessions allow employees to express their needs and seek assistance when required.
By taking steps to ensure everyone has a voice, you can increase employee satisfaction, reduce stress levels and create a culture where team members feel comfortable with the way work is distributed. In fact, 72% of recently surveyed business leaders — and 52% of knowledge workers — say effective communication has increased their team’s productivity.
3. Be proactive with capacity planning
In addition to managing workloads, you also need to ensure you have enough employees to cover current and future workloads. Understanding your team’s capacity is just as important as managing tasks.
Do you have the right number of employees? Do they provide the right mix of skills? Will you need to bring in contractors or hire more full-time staff to meet your goals? Workforce capacity planning analytics will not only help answer these questions for you but also provide the data you need to build a case for investing in additional resources.
4. Provide support for work-life balance
Helping employees manage their workloads is about more than meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals. You’re also helping them achieve a healthy work-life balance. Team members who repeatedly work long hours and weekends are more likely to experience the great enemy of productivity — burnout. In fact, research shows consistently clocking over 40 hours a week makes people so unproductive it’s “useless.”
When you’re proactive about monitoring capacity, it not only shows that you care about your employees as people but also helps ensure they’re ready for the workloads ahead. Sleep, rest and time spent pursuing activities outside of work all help prepare people to be more productive in the workplace.
5. Learn how to delegate
Delegation is a powerful way to distribute workloads and foster collaboration within a team. By identifying the strengths of individual team members, you can delegate tasks that align with their skills — reducing the burden on each employee.
Find your team’s ideal workload balance with ActivTrak
Worried you’ve been failing to manage workloads effectively? If so, you’re far from alone. Two-thirds of managers have a hard time communicating with employees. But if you want to unlock your team’s potential, getting comfortable with proactive workload conversations is critical. By identifying the causes of excessive workloads and using the strategies above to respond, you can create a productive work environment where everyone wins.
With ActivTrak, it’s easy to do just that. Our Workload Management tools remove the guesswork from distribution planning with insights on:
- The amount of time people are devoting to work
- Which team members are being over- (and under-) utilized
- Who’s exhibiting signs of burnout risk