Help your team be at its very best by putting energy into efficiently and successfully managing their workload.
What is workload management?
Workload management is the process of assessing and distributing work equally and efficiently throughout a team. It’s a way of optimising your resources and making sure to match up your list of priorities with the skills and capacity of your workforce.
Why is it important to manage your team’s workload?
If you want a happy, healthy and high-performing team, then managing workload is imperative. Keeping an eye on assignments and capacity is important for:
When workloads are appropriate, employees are more satisfied and spend less time being either bored or overworked. Reducing multitasking and the need to switch between jobs can help too. After all, research has found that only 2.5% of people can perform dual tasks with no detriment to their output.
Overly high workloads create unnecessary stress and contribute to burnout, so it’s essential to be mindful about what you’re asking for.
Boost team spirit
It’s much easier for a team to work in harmony when work is distributed fairly. When a subsection of your staff don’t feel overly burdened by work, then collaboration can happen much more easily.
Reduce employee turnover
Unison reports that excessive workloads inevitably lead some employees to want to leave their employer. With employee turnover rates spiking in 2022, up to 22.5% from 14.6% the year before, this is the perfect time to manage those workloads.
Challenges of workload management
Of course, it’s easier said than done. While managing workload for your teams may sound relatively straightforward, there are a few common stumbling blocks to consider.
- It may be difficult to fully understand or recognise the scope of a task from the outset
- Team members may want to make it sound as though they can do more than they can, in the hope of impressing
- It can be hard to work out which leadership style suits your team and how best to allocate tasks without micromanaging
The impact of poor workload management
Overcoming these challenges is well worth it, however, when you think about the impact poor workload management has on teams and projects. It can:
- Increase stress
- Put strain on relationships
- Sap energy
- Lead to mistakes
Strategies for effective workload management
Ensuring that you’re managing workload successfully can take a bit of trial and error, but there are some solid strategies you can put in place to help along the way.
Assess workload and resources
The first step is to thoroughly assess the various projects and deadlines that need to be managed and also the resources you have at your disposal. This means more than simply looking at your staffing levels; you also need to fully evaluate the various strengths and weaknesses of your team members.
It’s also important to consider all potential restraints. Do your employees have all the necessary skills for the tasks at hand? Are there difficult interpersonal relationships to bear in mind?
Break down projects and align on priorities
Once you have a clearer idea of your capacity, it’s time to look more closely at your various competing projects and their crunch points.
Use a Gantt chart or a Kanban board to get a visual representation of upcoming work and consider techniques like the Urgent Important Matrix to work out which tasks must be prioritised. This simple technique allows you to take a step back and determine the urgency of particular demands wen weighed up against other priorities.
It’s also essential to put some time into cost/benefits analysis. Sometimes the projects that create the most stress are not the ones most valuable for your team.
Allocate projects or tasks between team members
Now it’s time to allocate the various tasks between team members, making sure to allocate according to their particular skill sets. Distribute the most important tasks first and be sure to have an open conversation with your team throughout the process. Monitor everyone’s capacity as you go, making sure to not accidentally overload any one person.
Encourage effective communication
Effective communication should be a top priority all year round, but it really comes into its own during crunch points. Establish open channels of communication and encourage your team to use them.
Set aside time for team members who are regularly working together to catch up and ensure that they’re on the same page. Offer constructive feedback and prioritise updates and check ins. It’s the very occasions when you feel as though there’s no time for one-to-ones that they’re most essential.
Implement time management techniques
It’s also a good idea to introduce some time management techniques that can help your employees balance their workload. Suggest daily to-do lists and priority reshuffles and allow them to experiment with different working methods to boost their own efficiency, whether it’s the Pomodoro technique or blocking in focus hours.
Be sure to also block in plenty of breaks and remind your team of the importance of taking downtime. You may need to watch out for the signs of burnout when you know that your teams are under extra pressure.
Use technology and tools where it makes sense
The last thing you want to do is introduce a whole load of new systems for your teams to learn, but investing in the right technology can make a big difference. Project management tools like Trello and Asana can offer a framework for employees to boost their productivity.
Recognise and celebrate team achievements
Use the close eye you’re keeping on workloads as a chance to celebrate team achievements. Give your employees a boost by singling out their efforts and publicly thanking them for their ideas and efforts. Recognition is incredibly powerful in helping to improve employee engagement and satisfaction – particularly when the chips are down.
Check in with your team and regularly assess workloads
The only way to know for certain that your workload distribution is effective is to regularly check in with your team. Watch out for missed deadlines or any signs that someone is struggling and be sure to mix things up if you feel work isn’t being managed as efficiently as it could.
Address challenges and conflicts
Make space to work through any issues as and when they crop up. It’s much better to be proactive about potential problems and nip them in the bud, where possible. Being open about challenges and brainstorming solutions together can strengthen the bonds within your team, turning a negative into an opportunity for positive change.
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