Aworkload is the total of tasks one has to accomplish within a certain timeframe. It can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, based on either the amount of work to do or its complexity.
In either case, workload size and intensity largely define the speed of employee and team performance, as well as the quality of work. Hence, it’s pivotal for every manager to know how to effectively plan, distribute and monitor workloads among their staff members.
Below you will find some practical tips for successful workload management. But first, let’s have a closer look at the reasons why it’s so critical to manage workloads well.
Heavy Workload Is One of the Primary Causes of Burnout
In their comprehensive research on the causes of employee burnout, Ben Wigert and Sangeeta Agrawal ranked unmanageable workloads second in the list. They noted that a heavy workload affects a person’s mental state. By making one feel incompetent and unable, it reduces performance efficacy even in the most talented of employees:
“In sports psychology, coaches use the term ‘mental quicksand’ to describe how moments of poor performance can cause athletes to feel overwhelmed. This leads to further poor performance and damage to their confidence that continues to drag them down. High-performing employees can quickly shift from optimistic to hopeless as they drown in an unmanageable workload.”
In other words, allocating too many complex tasks for a worker is a sure way to turn them into an unhappy and unproductive individual. Not to mention that continual work-related stress may have a long-term detrimental effect on your team members’ health. And the more overwhelmed and dissatisfied employees become, the more likely they are to replace you with an employer who treats them and manages workloads better.
A takeaway: effective workload management is a cure against excessive HR costs, low productivity and poor employee engagement. By planning and allocating tasks to workers in a way that eliminates the risk of burnout, you can boost performance efficiency and attain superior business results.
6 Tips for Effective Workload Management
So, what can you do to keep team workloads always balanced and employees more satisfied with their jobs? Here are some clues:
1. Create a list of everything that must be done
Every successful project begins with a thoughtful plan that covers a list of all the work to be done and indicates how long it may take your team to complete it. Such a plan is also key to effective workload management. Thus, when managing team workloads, list every task you want to complete within a particular period and estimate those tasks considering their complexity.
Be sure to include routine workplace activities into the picture too. Email management, daily standup meetings, occasional team discussions — these and similar tasks consume employees’ time and energy as well. Hence, they are a part of everyday workload just like all the other responsibilities you consider more significant.
2. Analyze your current resource capacity in depth
The next step is to understand whether you have enough employees and time to work on tasks from your list. The goal here is to identify the gap between your demand for resources and your actual capacity. And to do that, you need to divide the total of your team members’ working hours by the total of estimates for the tasks you intend to assign to them.
In addition, think of the skills, experience, competencies and talents required to complete a piece of job perfectly. If you see that your staff does not qualify to polish off the planned work, you might want to seek for extra assistance.
3. Prioritize and plan tasks accordingly
Now that it’s clear whether you’re facing a resource shortage or not, you can elaborate the previously designed workload plan, edit it and set right priorities. Tasks that bring you closer to the desired business and project goals must remain in the forefront. As for everything less important, it may be postponed for later or gotten rid of entirely if your team won’t have time to complete it.
4. Allocate resources considering employee strengths and weaknesses
There’s hardly anything more stressful for an employee than being assigned a task they have no skills and knowledge to work on successfully. Besides, a random allocation of responsibilities following the “first come, first served” principle is bad for businesses too — if a team member’s experience and talents don’t match task characteristics and requirements quite well, the risk of cost overruns, schedule delays and low-quality outputs becomes real.
Avoid that by allocating tasks in accordance with employee strengths and weaknesses. Always choose the best fit for a piece of work. This way, your team members will show excellent performance results and won’t waste time correcting mistakes.
5. Track changes
Life rarely follows our plans. You can’t expect events to unfold exactly how you predicted and wanted them to evolve. Hence, to stay on top of the game, you need to do your best identifying changes in the environment and undertaking precautions to reduce their negative effects on your team and business.
Even the slightest shift in task complexity and workload intensity may burden employees a great deal. And if any worker suddenly goes absent, someone else might have to stay overtime and compromise their own well-being in order to help you out with timely project delivery. What you can do about this problem is track changes in your initial work plans and monitor resource availability nonstop. These measures will help you to quickly readjust the plan of action in response to sudden workload changes.
To get support in mastering this job, consider adopting a feature-packed absence management tool that will enable your team members to schedule time off in advance and make it easy for you to manage their leave requests, as well as track and predict staff availability at any moment.
Click here to learn about actiPLANS, one of the most valuable and affordable absence management and resource planning products you can find on the market today.
6. Keep tabs on work progress
Performance progress is another essential thing to keep an eye on when managing workloads. If a worker is struggling to complete the assigned tasks efficiently, often misses deadlines and doesn’t meet your productivity expectations, it may be a sign for you to rethink the created workload plan and shift some responsibilities off that team member’s plate.
The best way to stay in the know of employees’ work progress is by using a time tracking and task management app. Have a look at actiTIME as an example: besides a straightforward timesheet functionality, it contains such useful features as a visual estimate tracker, the Kanban board and multiple detailed reports.
By collecting data on the use of working time and presenting them to you in the form of neat reports and charts, actiTIME lets you analyze how well you comply with your work plans, how efficiently you use resources and how productive your team is. This way the tool informs your workload management decisions, making them more fruitful and on-point.
Sign up for a free 30-day trial now to see how actiTIME can help you balance workloads and build a stress-free and productive environment for your team.