Help Manage Employee Workloads Before It’s Too Late

Burnout: It’s something everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. In any profession, it’s common to find employees working themselves to the point of exhaustion. They push their minds and bodies to the absolute limit in order to get their work done. To keep your team from crashing and burning, it’s crucial for leaders to start managing workloads with team members before it’s too late.

 

Productivity has been at the center of our culture ever since the industrial revolution. It was during this time that society moved toward mass production with the onslaught of factories and mechanized manufacturing. This transition led many businesspeople to value efficiency above all else. In time, workers were conditioned to work like machines, pumping out as much effort as they possibly could in the shortest time possible. Productivity is measured the same way to this day. Performing at this rate day-in and day-out is draining, and it’s not too long before worn-out workers finally hit a wall.

 

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Why it’s important to help employees manage their workloads

Think about a time that you felt overworked. Maybe you agreed to a project that ended up being way more work than you anticipated. Perhaps you took on too many responsibilities and couldn’t find the time to juggle it all. In any case, the lethargy, fatigue and anxiety that come along with this stress can be debilitating. These feelings are harmful not only to the individual but also to the people around them.

 

Consequences of employee burnout

Burnout takes an enormous toll on both mental and physical health. Without taking steps to prevent and confront a person’s stress—starting with workload management—these are just some of the repercussions they may have to face.

 

Decreased physical health

Working oneself to the point of exhaustion can have several impacts on the body. Stress can affect your sleep schedule, causing either excessive fatigue or insomnia. For many people, it can lead to other issues like headaches, high blood pressure or loss of appetite. Stress can also spur hormonal changes that reduce the body’s immune response, making the affected person more susceptible to illnesses.

 

Mood changes

When someone is stressed out, they may be less patient and more irritable than their well-rested counterparts. These emotional repercussions can create tension in relationships with family, friends and coworkers. It’s no secret that happy employees are productive employees, so showing up to work in a foul mood could throw off the dynamic of the entire team.

 

Low productivity

With little to no gas left in the tank, it’s hard to find the motivation to get to work. Burnout can impair a person’s ability to focus, multitask and prioritize important tasks. They might miss deadlines, forget meetings or submit low-quality work. After working themselves to the bone, an employee simply won’t have the energy to perform at their best.

 

Dissatisfaction

Exhausted employees get less fulfillment out of their jobs. You will likely find them working on “autopilot,” a mindset in which a person simply goes through the motions with no enthusiasm or sense of purpose. Functioning this way for an extended period of time can lead to a total loss of interest in things that once sparked feelings of joy.

 

How you can help manage employee workloads

One way you can help your team members avoid the consequences of burnout by assigning them a more manageable workload. Doing this requires consistent communication about what each person can handle. These conversations should be both proactive and reactive in nature. You can develop a workload management plan with some of the following strategies:

 

Make work a “happy place”

Your employees shouldn’t dread the idea of coming into work every day. You can create a positive work environment by encouraging camaraderie, planning fun activities and doing whatever else you can to make the hours fly by. Work is work, so sometimes burnout is inevitable. However, the more cheerful and pleasant the energy is, the harder it will be for your team members to resent their work day.

 

Determine capacity levels

Think about how much work every employee can effectively take on. How many tasks can a person realistically complete in a day or week? Can they multitask, or should they focus on one thing at a time? It’s easier to understand a person’s threshold over time. If you don’t know how an employee functions at their best, ask them for their preferences.

 

Hold frequent one-to-one meetings

While group meetings are great for increasing morale, an employee with too much on their plate might be ashamed to ask for help in front of so many people. Nobody wants their peers or mentors to think they’re slacking off or can’t keep up with the rest of the team. Meeting with your workers one-on-one might make them more comfortable opening up about how they’re really doing.

 

Many professionals make a habit of bottling up their emotions, so be sure to ask your employees explicitly about their stress levels—both inside and outside the office. As a leader, you should encourage your team members to maintain a work-life balance. For example, if something in their personal life is giving them grief, do what you can to make their work life a little easier. Demonstrating empathy and compassion will help you build stronger relationships with fellow professionals.

 

Split work among employees

Ensure that the team’s workload is divided somewhat evenly among the group. This way, everybody is expected to make an equal contribution. If somebody runs into trouble, take an “all hands on deck” approach to make sure all the work gets finished. When one of your employees bites off more than they can chew, delegate something on their to-do list to one of their peers. A favor this simple could take an enormous weight off an individual’s shoulders. It also ensures that all work is being done by workers who have the time and energy to do it—and do it well.

 

Give them a break!

Whenever possible, offer your hardworking employees a chance to rest and recover. At the very least, don’t bombard them with phone calls and emails on holidays and weekends—this is their designated time off!

 

You can do even more to let your workers recharge without sacrificing time and productivity. Whenever suitable, allowing employees work from home gives them more freedom in their schedule. Let’s say it’s Friday afternoon and someone has finished their work for the week. Instead of telling them to get a head start for Monday, why not let them have the rest of the day off?

 

Another way to help your team take a pause is by giving them time throughout the workday. How about a mid-day meditation, a quick group outing or simply bringing coffee and donuts into the office and allowing them to be enjoyed at leisure?

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