Let’s say you have a highly ambitious and accountable employee with a proven track record of delivering projects on time. This employee typically has no problem managing their workload. In fact, they often have the capacity to help you with your own tasks or to take on stretch assignments.
But then someone on your team leaves unexpectedly, and you’re told you won’t be getting a replacement, so this employee offers to pick up some of the work. They’re then approached by upper management to lead a new initiative and because it’s their boss’s boss, they feel like they can’t say no. In addition to all that and their day-to-day responsibilities, the high-priority client they manage experiences an emergency and suddenly needs far more time and resources than normal.
In this situation, it is not unheard of for leaders to think to themselves, “They’re alright. This is what we pay them for,” and move on. Lulled into a sense of false confidence, these leaders then feel blindsided when this employee ends up in their office at their wits end, or worse, handing in their resignation.
What then should people leaders be doing differently to avoid such a situation? The answer is workload management.
What is workload management?
Simply put, workload management is the allocation of work among a team of employees. It is when a leader monitors the workload of each employee and proactively steps in before an unmanageable and heavy workload can harm an employee, cause a mistake, or derail productivity and morale. A major part of managing an employee’s workload is prioritizing tasks, managing expectations, setting boundaries, and standing up for your employees.
Why is workload management important?
It is essential for leaders to continuously monitor, assess, and proactively manage their employee’s workload for several reasons. First, heavy workloads cause good employees to leave their companies. This is highlighted in the following diagram from McKinsey, as it plots unmanageable workload as one of the top reasons employees leave their organization.
Second, a heavy workload leads to debilitating stress, mood disorders, and physical illness, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
The bottom line is that when an employee endures a heavy workload for a prolonged period, it can do more harm than good. For that reason, people leaders need to take an active role in managing their employee’s workload and be prepared to help them prioritize tasks, set boundaries, redistribute the work, and manage the expectations of upper management or clients.
3 workload management best practices every people leader should implement
If you want to be sure you are doing everything to retain good employees and keep them from unnecessarily struggling, then workload management is non-negotiable. To help you get started, here are three actions to consider taking ASAP that will help you monitor and manage heavy workloads:
Schedule Regular One-on-One Meetings
One-on-one meetings are not just a chance for you to get updates on tasks or projects. They are also an opportunity to build trust and mutual respect so that your employees feel comfortable being open, honest, and candid with you regarding their workload. However, not every employee will admit if they are struggling when it comes to managing their workload. Therefore, you should also pay attention to what is unspoken and what your employees are conveying nonverbally. By approaching one-on-one meetings in this regard, you will begin to pick up on your employee’s stress, and burnout tells so you can take action before you have a full-blown problem on your hands.
Use a Workload Management Tool
If you and your team are tech-savvy, turn to a digital workload management tool such as Monday, Asana, or Clickup. These platforms are great for managing workloads as they allow you as the leader to see everything your team is working on at a glance and sort the information in many different ways. Not to mention, these platforms offer time tracking so you can get a more thorough understanding of where your team’s time is being spent to make any needed adjustments.
Provide Development Opportunities
As you monitor and manage your employee’s workload as needed, it is a good idea to provide your employees with the opportunity to learn skills that will help them manage their workload. More specifically, look for training programs that teach individuals to prioritize tasks effectively, set reasonable expectations, and optimize their time by eliminating distractions.
Conclusion: Leaders Play a Crucial Role in Workload Management
When you take an active role in managing employee’s workload, you show them you value them, build their trust and respect, and generally ensure their overall well-being at the company. All of which are incredibly valuable and important.
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