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How to Identify and Fix Unbalanced Workloads Within a Team

Learn how to find and fix unbalanced workloads within your team, with 4 proven strategies for evenly distributing workloads and boosting productivity.


By ActivTrak

A stone and wooden plank being used to balance rocks between two sides, though there is a clear imbalance

One of the biggest enemies of productivity is also one of the least understood. It’s a leading cause of burnout, causes division within teams and can even cause people to quit. So, what is it?

Unbalanced workloads.

Whether the result of organizational restructuring or poor delegation, workload imbalance is a common struggle for teams. And if employees don’t speak up when it happens, this issue can fly under the radar for weeks or months before you realize there’s a problem. 

The sooner you find and fix workload distribution problems, the more engaged and productive your team will be.

What are unbalanced workloads?

Unbalanced workloads happen when different team members have different amounts of work. It means some people take on too many responsibilities, while others don’t have enough to do. 

Unbalanced workloads happen for a variety of reasons. It might be the result of organizational restructuring that strips some departments of previous resources, leaving them understaffed and overworked. Or it may occur when a manager unwittingly assigns a disproportionate amount of work to high performers, rather than distributing tasks across team members in a way that’s fair.

Work can also become unbalanced when top performers say “yes” to every assignment and volunteer for any opportunity — and never request additional resources.

The impact of unbalanced workloads on employees and businesses

Every manager, regardless of industry or team size, should have a process in place for regularly evaluating workloads. Why? Because research has consistently shown that overall workload distribution has a direct impact on team performance. For example, unbalanced workloads can quickly lead to:

Unnecessary stress

Eight in ten employees feel stress at work, and 41% cite workload as the cause. The longer this problem persists, the more severe the impact will be. In one survey, 95% of workers said they feel pressured to overwork. In another, nearly half reported feeling mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the workday.

Prolonged burnout

Over time, the stress caused by excessive workloads can lead to continual burnout. And that’s not a minor issue. According to Gallup, burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to actively seek a different job and 63% more likely to take sick days. 

Lower engagement

It’s not just overworked employees you need to watch for. Team members who are underutilized may feel undervalued and unchallenged, which can also impact morale. They may start to resent the company and become disengaged at the same time their overworked colleagues feel overwhelmed and lack support.

How to identify the signs of unbalanced workloads

Before you can address workload imbalances, you need to identify them. You can do this by observing employee behavior and productivity levels, scheduling one-on-ones to discuss workloads individually, or conducting team feedback sessions. 

In addition, workforce analytics software helps alert you to the early signs of burnout and shows you when employees are overworked or underutilized.

Common signs of unbalanced workloads among employees include:

  • Noticeable changes in demeanor. Are previously engaged employees suddenly distant and disengaged? This could be an indicator they’re carrying a disproportionate amount of workload and need help redistributing it.
  • Sudden spikes in turnover. If you’re conducting more exit interviews than anticipated, this is another indicator of unbalanced workloads. Some people may leave in pursuit of a better work-life balance, while others are looking to find a position that makes better use of their skills and strengths.
  • Missed deadlines. When employees are overloaded with tasks, they may struggle to prioritize and complete their work efficiently. This can result in missed deadlines, decreased creativity, and a decline in overall team performance.

4 strategies to balance workloads

As soon as you realize workloads are imbalanced, it's essential to redistribute as soon as possible. But don’t simply shift tasks and call it a day. Distributing work effectively is an ongoing process — one that involves constant prioritization and evaluation with the goal of long-term consistency.

1. Become a pro at workload distribution

Workload distribution is one of the best methods to ensure team members work in harmony. By regularly evaluating who’s working on what, you can correct imbalances as they occur to ensure assigned tasks have been allocated in a way that’s fair and efficient.

This is especially important for projects where scope creep is inevitable since it helps ensure each person has the proper workload at all times. With practice, the process of workload distribution can become second nature.

2. Use software to identify imbalances

To accurately identify inequitable resource allocations, workload management tools are key. By using software to collect and interpret the data automatically, you can more easily identify issues and make adjustments in real time. 

Look for a solution to proactively alert you when someone is overloaded or working excessively long hours and makes it easy to see who’s being underutilized so you can give them a greater share of assignments.

3. Delegate responsibilities effectively

Delegation is a key skill when it comes to balancing workloads. By assigning specific tasks to the most suitable employees, you can ensure workloads are distributed evenly and capabilities are being used effectively.

Proper delegation is also a great way to provide growth opportunities and help people develop new skills. Just because an employee hasn’t taken on a particular task in the past doesn’t mean they can’t master it for future projects.

4. Help with priorities and time management

As a manager, it’s your job to prioritize assignments based on urgency and importance. By establishing clear expectations and deadlines, you can help employees work on the most critical assignments first — before saying “yes” to unnecessary meetings or distractions.

When your team members allocate their time and resources effectively, the result is less stress and more engagement — not to mention high-quality work that’s completed on time.

Find and fix unbalanced workloads with ActivTrak

Once your teams are fully aligned on assignments and responsibilities, amazing things  happen — like more collaboration, less burnout and, ultimately, the pursuit of bigger and better goals. But first, you’ll need to master the art of workload distribution.

With ActivTrak’s workload management reporting, you can start correcting unbalanced workloads right away by:

  • Identifying underutilized employees who have the capacity to take on more work
  • Getting alerts when overworked employees show signs of burnout 
  • Assessing spikes in work hours that indicate a need for rebalancing workloads

Sign up for your free account or request a demo to learn how ActivTrak can help you meet your goals with accurate workload distribution.

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