Knowing how to manage the workload of employees sounds like a simple concept. You just need to assign the right work to the right people. Many hands make light work, right?

Well, it’s more complicated than it sounds.

Workload management is the process of strategically assigning and managing work across a team. Effective workload management is crucial when work piles up to ensure that team members correctly prioritize essential tasks.

Research suggests that the average employee has about three hours of productive work per day. These lower productivity rates are associated with poor resource management that stresses workload demand and increases employee burnout.

For this reason, honing your workload management skills is well worth the effort.

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Why effective workload management is so important

The way you distribute work impacts all areas of your business. In fact, a 2020 study found that employees are less satisfied when they think workloads are unbalanced.

When a team’s workload is unmanageable, productivity decreases and burnout soon follows. More often than not, burnout affects employee performance and is a primary reason employees quit.

In contrast, encouraging teamwork and appropriately delegating work can increase workplace satisfaction, enabling team members to produce their best work.

The benefits of effective team workload management also extend beyond the company’s bottom line. Successful workload management is crucial to the entire team and is in the company’s best interest.

Your team will be happier, healthier, and more productive if you’re great at workload management. You may also find yourself completing work faster with fewer people. This way, you can begin to grow your company without spending so much money.

Creating a good workload management strategy also helps you become a better manager.

Employees who feel that the team’s workload is unbalanced are less satisfied with their jobs.

When you truly understand how and when work is getting done, your team trusts that you’re more in tune.

Ten steps to effectively manage your team’s workload

The key to effective workload management is to take proactive steps as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for it to get to a point where employees are no longer satisfied with their work environment.

1: List the work that needs to be done

To manage your workload, you need to know everything that must be done and who has the bandwidth to handle it.

Start by listing everything your team needs to do and how long it takes. If you use a time tracking tool, you can also look at that data to help inform your estimates. Include meetings, planned time off, and anything else that takes up work time.

Your work should be on the list, too. Seeing exactly how you spend your time will help you decide what to delegate.

Dividing work fairly doesn’t always mean dividing work evenly.

If you use task management software, you already have most of this list. Include all the time-consuming tasks that your software doesn’t track.

Here are some of the miscellaneous items that are often overlooked in this step:

  • Mandatory training: industry licensing requirements and HR-required company policy reviews
  • Shared administrative tasks: making coffee, getting the mail, and unpacking office supplies
  • Career development: learning new skills and working with internal career counselors
  • Organization and planning: inbox management, returning calls, and cleaning up a messy desk
  • Scheduling: communicating with 3rd party vendors and planning time off
  • Process improvements: testing new tools, documenting processes, and proposing changes to existing procedures

Your completed list of work might look a little messy. Some things are long-term projects. Some are minor tasks that only need to be done occasionally.

This big picture view is what matters. Later, you’ll break everything into manageable tasks, but don’t do it yet. Instead, organize your list into groups:

  1. Group project tasks by individual project
  2. Group non-project work tasks by related work (reporting, customer relations, etc.)
  3. Categorize remaining tasks (administrative, maintenance, culture, etc.)

When you start assigning or moving tasks between employees, it’s wise to create Timelines for your big projects.

Now that you have a holistic view of your team’s workload, you’re ready for the next step.

2: Assess your team’s capacity

Like in football, every team member plays a different position in your organization. When you build out a team, you’ll need a mix of skills and personalities for success.

Some people can efficiently juggle multiple tasks and deadlines. Some have highly specialized skills. Because every person and position is different, dividing the workload fairly doesn’t always mean dividing it evenly.

It’s essential to take the time to check in with your team. You should also ask each person privately how they feel about their current workload.

Take note of who feels comfortable and who wants more or less on their plate. This opens the lines of communication, and you get an idea of team member capacity.

Create a chart that includes this information for each team member:

  • Their title and job description
  • Any additional skills (even if those skills aren’t being utilized currently) 
  • A list of all the work they’re currently assigned

It’s also helpful to consider employees’ interests when delegating tasks.

3: Prioritize and trim

You already mapped out your team’s workload. Now, go back to your list of work and break any big projects into smaller tasks.

The goal is to turn your team’s entire workload into a list of tasks that one person can complete in a reasonable amount of time. This will also serve as a way to plan and manage workloads and priorities.

Tasks should be completed in order of importance. Look closely at low-priority work to decide if it needs to be done. Then, trim any needless tasks (like non-productive meetings) and use that time to work on more important things.

Multitasking does not work. It stresses people out, reduces their connection to what they’re doing, and lowers cognitive ability. That’s right — multitasking makes you dumber. Temporarily, at least.

Focusing on priority items first helps you decide how to assign tasks.

You don’t want all of your priorities assigned to the same person while the rest of your team works on the less important stuff.

4: Communicate with your team

Significant changes are difficult. Even if your team has begged for a better workload management process, moving to a new system is uncomfortable.

Stay open to communication. Your team will find it easier to change when they’re involved in the process.

Make it easier by including your team in the process and communicating openly.

Ask who would like more or fewer tasks. Some people may be interested in learning new skills or taking a different career path.

It’s easier for your team to handle the transition when they’re deeply involved. There’s a big difference between making something happen and having something happen to you.

Balance workload more easily

Book a demo of Hubstaff Tasks to learn how it can help you assess your team’s work capacity at all times and allow you to manage workload more efficiently.

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5: Help employees enhance their time management skills

When an employee juggles several tasks, all labeled “high priority,” it can be challenging to manage their time to meet every deadline.

Effective time management is a skill that often needs to be learned. Helping employees enhance their time management skills can equip them with the tools they need to improve their workflow and wellbeing.

There are several time management skills that employees can use to reduce stress and increase productivity:

  • Planning: Employees should plan out their day by creating a list of tasks and priorities. The plan should include time tracking to help them stay on task and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Timeboxing: Team members can use timeboxing to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Encourage them to block off time on their calendar to focus on these tasks and avoid disruptive multitasking. Each task should have a dealine that gives the team members an adequate time frame to complete it.
  • Delegating: Managers should delegate tasks whenever possible to lighten their workload.

6: Check-in with team members frequently

Time slips by, and before you know it, days or even weeks can pass without having a check-in with your team members.

You may feel that there’s no need to meet unless a team member needs help or guidance — but check-in anyway. These check-ins also help you gauge employee engagement, morale, and work-life balance.

So how often should you check in with team members? The answer could be as little as once per month or as often as once a week. It depends on various factors, including the size of your organization, your organizational needs, and even the current state of team morale.

“Leading a hybrid team, with a considerable share of fully remote employees, I realized that weekly 1:1s help my team members and I stay connected and aligned. I use these meetings to check-in on life in general, and then zoom in to their current projects, challenges or anything new or exciting that they want to take on next. I like to switch up the check-in questions I use to keep the meetings interesting and dynamic.” – Veronika Schäfer, Head of Learning Science at Zavvy. 

When you have meetings, dig deeper and check on your team’s health and what’s going on in their professional and personal lives. You can conduct these meetings in-person or digitally.

7: Discourage working long hours

Working long hours can negatively impact personal and organizational health. According to the World Health Organization, overworking led to over 745,000 deaths in a single year.

With a heavy workload, team members are tempted to work long hours to get everything done. This leads to burnout and can impact their quality of work.

You might also see decreased productivity and higher turnover rates (which can be costly). Read more about hours worked vs. productivity. Other costs include overtime and additional hires to offset the growing workload.

Weekly overtime calculation example

Try to break up the long hours by encouraging team members to take breaks throughout the day. This will help them stay refreshed and focused.

Ensuring team members have adequate time for relaxation and rejuvenation outside of work will help them maintain a consistent energy flow while working.

8: Reassign tasks

When deciding how to divide your team’s workload, it’s okay if some people have a few more responsibilities.

Some people are more efficient, while others have specialized skills that take longer to perform. You will also find some team members love detail-oriented work and others hate it.

Assign work that suits a person’s strengths whenever possible.

Divide tasks with larger goals in mind. You accomplish more things faster when everyone works toward the same goal together.

There are two types of tasks to consider: reoccurring tasks and project work. Reassigning and redistributing this work should be done differently.

There’s no logical stopping point in tasks like a weekly spreadsheet update, so reassign the job and move on. Trying to transition these things slowly creates more work and confuses your team.

Tasks that are part of a more significant project may need a gradual transition over time. Consider the current progress and whether or not the current point person wants to keep working on it.

You can let them finish their work before adjusting responsibilities or reassign it immediately.

9: Set achievable deadlines

With a heavy workload, a team member may miss a deadline. This then affects other teams and departments when their deadlines are pushed back accordingly.

However, this disruption is preventable by implementing a system that allows for assessing team members’ workloads. Managers can then set achievable deadlines based on individual capabilities.

A missed deadline lowers morale and may interrupt progress on future tasks.

Realistic deadlines take inventory of everyone’s workload and available resources to ensure that team members are given achievable deadlines. 

10: Use workload management tools

You don’t have to manage your team member’s workloads alone. If you’re looking for low-maintenance workload management, there are some excellent tools out there.

Learning how to use a new tool is the hardest part. Once you’ve got everything set up, keep improving the process to get the most benefit from your efforts.

Hubstaff Tasks can help you build custom workflows. From there, you can drag and drop to move tasks and ideas wherever they need to go. You can easily see and manage your entire team’s workload.

Use Sprints and intuitive Timelines to help your team focus on the highest priorities, and take advantage of automated Stand-ups to spend less time in meetings and more time getting things done.

Hubstaff Tasks Sprints

Set your task due dates according to importance to keep your team on track and reinforce those priorities whenever you see them starting to drift.

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Managing employee workload & avoiding over-assigning

Managing your team’s workload is an ongoing task that requires routine check-ins. Fortunately, there are resources and an assortment of project management tools available to implement into your workflow seamlessly.

These project management tools allow team members to prioritize tasks, visualize their workflow, and maximize productivity through automation.

Managers can also leverage these workload management tools to take a step back and visualize everyone’s workload in real-time to avoid over-assigning tasks.

Comprehensive reporting can help managers identify areas for improvement. These reports  can help you set hours limits and project budgets. You can even set up an alert if your limits are approaching.

Signs you have a workload management problem

Productivity and morale issues have many different causes. If you push your team to be more efficient when the real problem is that you’re not managing the workload effectively, your top performers are likely to quit.

Workload issues aren’t always obvious.

Look for these warning signs that you need to balance the workload:

  • Team members complain about the amount of work they have 
  • Team members regularly stay late or extend their workday to meet deadlines
  • Your team regularly misses deadlines
  • Your team has more communication issues
  • Tasks only get done when you ask about them
  • Team members show signs of burnout
  • Team members seem disinterested in the team’s work, in company events, or in meetings

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s crucial to take action to address the employee’s workload. You may need to take immediate steps like redistributing tasks among team members, hiring additional help, or encouraging a more relaxed company culture.

When you overwork one team member, the stress levels resonate throughout the team.

Seeing these warning signs isn’t a sign that it’s too late to do anything about your overworked team members. If you catch any warning signs, take extra time to remedy the situation.

Many managers often miss these warning signs. As a result, the organization wastes resources and risks losing its top talent.

Getting started

Managing your team’s workload more efficiently can help you improve productivity and morale.

You can leverage project management tools to automate tasks. These features are essential in highly organized workflows like Agile project management.

Your new workload management skills will make a big difference for your team.

What project will you launch with your extra time? Tell us in the comments.

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Category: Workforce Management