Employees' workloads: Time to adjust them!

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Being swamped or overloaded with work... these terms remind us that the working world always asks more of us. Anyone can cave in to this pressure at any time. Are you worried about how an overload of work might affect your team, especially burnout? If so, then it’s time to act. You can adjust workloads while maintaining the same level of productivity. Yes, you can do it, and we even have a strategy for you.

The top source of burnout

An August 2023 survey found that 51% of American employees viewed workload as the primary cause for burnouts (This hyperlink will open in a new tab).

That’s in line with the World Health Organization, which defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

What does the term workload mean?

We’re referring to all the conditions required to complete a professional activity. It’s primarily measured by criteria such as the complexity of tasks or the quantity of jobs in relation to deadlines and available resources. The ideal scenario would be to reach a balance between these aspects.

A well-managed workload allows everyone to perform better, meet challenges, advance and feel appreciated.

Why target work overload?

For employees, work overload is the perception or realization that they have too much work or too many objectives. This impression can increase their stress and anxiety levels. Over the long run, it will impact their physical and mental health, including morale, motivation and concentration. Productivity and, quite often, quality are compromised. You’ll see the impact when you start noticing an increasing number of work-related accidents and cases of occupational exhaustion, and the effect on work-life balance.

One false belief is that people with a work overload can’t properly manage their time. In truth, if work has become all consuming, it may be a result of the company’s methods of working, such as:

  • Providing unclear instructions for tasks
  • Frequently making informal requests
  • Not providing support or training for specific tasks
  • Working with outdated IT tools, etc.

One thing you can be sure of is that making a single preventive or corrective action will be much more constructive for the team than making a judgement on time management.

How to manage workloads

Let’s develop a strategy that can net you good results. Make sure you do so with the employees, they’re part of the solution after all!

1. Gather information

Ask your employees about situations in which they feel they have more work than they can handle. Start with group discussions by job type, then gather more information during one-on-one meetings.

There are many benefits to this:

  • By listening to the members of your team, you’re in fact protecting them and reducing their stress levels.
  • You can better understand what they consider work overload and the risky situations.
  • You might just discover solutions to improve certain work methods, adjust workloads or change certain factors that increase them.

2. Assess the actual workload

Based on information you collect, analyze the actual workload together. Go beyond the number of hours or how many projects each person is working on.  Think of the project context and constraints:

  • Are the procedures and tools used every day effective?
  • Are the goals, roles and responsibilities of each team member clear and realistic?
  • Is each individual’s specific strength being used efficiently?

If needed, change the distribution of the most critical tasks (without discarding the rest).

3. Adjust tasks and be flexible

If necessary, reorganize the work by taking into account...

  • Skills, preferences and capacities of your staff members
  • Company priorities and available resources
  • Time management, the unexpected and stress

Don’t be firm with your adjustments (e.g. schedules, hybrid work, adapting tasks). Being flexible is essential.

Keep getting employee feedback to make other relevant adjustments or delegate certain tasks. And be sure to provide plenty of feedback on the work that gets done.

Encourage collaboration and mutual aid in the team to maximize efficiency.

4. Use tools and resources at your disposal

Sometimes the challenges related to workload and prevention become significant enough to bring in specialists. Many organizations rely on professional support through their group insurance for businesses. There are many tools available to help you adjust the workload with no impact on team performance.

Various workplace health solutions are available to help you by providing guidance, prevention methods and promoting health.

Instilling a strong health culture in your company is a proven way of promoting employee well-being and engagement, and thereby prevent burnouts.

5. Adjust the workload on an ongoing basis

To create more humane and productive working conditions, make sure everyone has a manageable workload. And you guessed it, this process can be adjusted every so often. It’s well worth it! Not only will you be on top of everything as a manager, but you’ll also prevent a lot of problems.