In a statistic that is, unfortunately, gaining momentum in tech, one of the leading causes of burnout is work overload. Along with triggering adverse health effects, burnout causes avolition, can make your mind or emotions feel scattered, and tanks morale – all which can impact your performance and bottom line.
Fortunately, however, workload management can solve all of this. It’s up to leadership at an organization to manage employee workloads and eliminate as much work stress as possible, so that staff can be as productive as possible – even in a role where your job is to drive business efficiency through innovation.
Tips to Boost Productivity
While working long hours may lead to more take-home in your paycheck, it doesn’t equate to higher productivity. Studies have shown that long working hours have led to similar effects as burnout: decreased productivity, poor performance, health problems, and lower employee motivation. And the effect they have on sleep alone can lead to some experiencing cognitive impairments, irritability, and delusions (in extreme cases), risking a higher burnout toll.
When workloads are managed correctly, however, they can lead to a better work-life balance (also affected by burnout) and allow employees to perform their work efficiently. With a little planning, this can be done in a manner that reduces stress and achieves optimal performance.
Here are four workload management tips that can reduce stress:
1. Determine Capacity Levels
The first thing you have to do is enact capacity planning. This starts with organizing a project’s schedule so that every team member achieves their maximum output and the project gets completed as quickly as possible.
One way to do this is by adopting a work breakdown structure (WBS) that allows you to break down larger projects into smaller pieces so that more work can be done simultaneously by different team members, leading to better productivity and easier project management. It allows you to see exactly what work can be done at the same time by members of your team and helps you optimize time allocation and output. You can also identify a project’s critical path, ensuring that work gets done on time by focusing on key tasks, which avoids both overloads and vacancies and helps you see who depends on what to move forward and prioritize and shift accordingly.
2. Split Work Between Staff
Identifying top performers to do certain tasks can be really easy to do when a project comes up, but this can quickly underutilize other team members and overwhelm those getting repeat requests (not to mention cause tension between workers and cause lower performers to lose interest). This also means no one else outside of your top performers builds competence or confidence to work on more complex tasks.
For this, you need to truly assess the strengths of your team, as well as some areas of improvement. If this project presents an opportunity to learn about a particular area of expertise, should I bring someone on board who could use that experience?
Another way to go about doing this is by dividing up work fairly so that all team members understand the roles and responsibilities. With everyone on the same page, assigning tasks becomes much less daunting. Or you could divide the work based on availability so that work is only given to team members who don’t have a lot on their plates.
In sales, for example, when trying to assign a lead, a company only has up to 5 minutes to respond before they risk losing them forever. During this time, a rep would have to pull each lead from their marketing automation platform (MAP) and qualify them manually by collecting data across apps like Clearbit and DiscoverOrg. They’d then have to check availability before making a call. This could cause leads to sit in a queue for hours and often results in many leads going cold, duplicate follow-ups and low team morale.
A way around this is by using LeadBot, a set of automations that allows reps to respond to leads in under 5 minutes. Connecting apps essential to lead follow-ups (like MAPs, CRMs, internal collaboration tools, and data enrichment tools), reps can interact with LeadBot via a DM in Slack, where they can set their status as “Accepting Leads” or “Not Accepting Leads.” LeadBot intelligently qualifies leads based on company industry, geography and size based on designated enrichment sources like Clearbit, Salesforce, Outreach, and LinkedIn – and routes them to the appropriate SDR based on their availability, geolocation and time zone.
IT has a great example of distributing work by availability, as well, integrating Slack with Jira and pulling all on-call engineers into a private channel whenever an escalated ticket comes in from their service desk.
Tagging incoming support requests by skill or bandwidth wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
3. Check Project Statuses and Adjust, If Necessary
Of course, every project won’t go exactly as planned, which is why it’s important to remain flexible and adjust as needed. Even if certain tasks were assigned to team members to allow them to gain experience in different areas, your star player may be called in to put out a fire and your team, therefore, will need to be reorganized.
One way you could check project statuses transparently and see if a task needs to switch hands (or needs more eyes) is through daily stand-up meetings. Stand-up meetings – a short meeting for people to give brief updates on their work progress to their teams – are common practice in Agile Development, but are starting to be used across business for their ability to boost productivity, eliminate bottlenecks, clarify accountability, and reduce wasteful tasks in a matter of minutes.
If a manager wants to set up a stand-up meeting in Slack, for example, they can simply type slash command `/standup` in their team’s Slack channel. The bot will then ask the manager a few questions: what time do you want the stand-up message to send, and what are the custom questions for your team? Those questions – which you could change on a daily basis – could include: ‘What projects are you working on today?’ and ‘Are there any roadblocks in your way?’
After setup, the bot will send a daily message to the channel automatically asking each team member to fill in their answers for the day. And that’s it! A quick stand-up meeting has been fully conducted inside of Slack and you can learn the status of tasks as they progress. If you need to make any changes based on those conversations, you can do so quickly and efficiently with all team members present inside of Slack to ensure their voices and needs are heard.
4. Use the Right Business Technology Tools
In addition to honing your workload management skills, the right integration and automation tool can help ensure project work is equitable and balanced between team members.
With tools like chatbots that allow you to bring work from other apps into Slack (with Slack acting as a unified UI), you can improve productivity and reduce context switching by pulling key processes into the chat console. This also drives mobility and enables teams to work from anywhere. Through designated channels for teams and processes, as well as bots, you can easily see what team members are working on and collaborate and adjust tasks as needed using buttons, drop-down lists, and simple commands in Slack.
How Managing Workloads Leads to Healthier Employees (and Businesses)
The fact of the matter is stressed employees cannot successfully contribute to business and, therefore, business is not successful. They exhibit 60% higher absenteeism and are significantly less effective when they’re at work. Researchers claim that presenteeism—or working while sick—can cut an employee’s productivity by up to 77 percent. This can cost employers up to $300 billion a year, though estimates vary. The cost of doing nothing, according to UMass Lowell, is too great.
Investing in mechanisms and standards to keep employees healthy and surrounded by minimal stress prevents them from feeling overworked, burned out and anxious. Properly managing teams’ workloads helps them reach their full potential in a safe and effective way for both the leaders who administer it and the staff who experience it – impacting, in the long run, business success as you invest in your most important asset.