Effective workload management ensures employees can complete their tasks within the given time frame while maintaining high productivity levels and minimizing stress and burnout.
For example, a project manager can help with proper planning, but team members must also collaborate with their department managers to manage their 'day job' workload.
What is workload management?
Workload management refers to efficiently managing the amount of work that needs to be completed within a given period.
But first, a story.
As a process manager for a vehicle electrical/electronic engineering department, a project came to the group when the present workload was relatively high.
Additionally, the newly proposed project from the marketing group has an extensive scope with many features. The managers around the table express that the project's size and the number of projects presently underway put this new project at risk if taken as is.
I suggest we ask the marketing group to prioritize the feature list; why to put all at risk for unimportant items? The chief engineer says the marketing folks want the complete list, and the team will not return to them for prioritization. Sigh.
Managing workload can be challenging, especially when you have multiple projects or tasks within a specific timeframe. Here are some tips on how to effectively manage your workload:
- Prioritizing tasks: Employees should prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency. This can help ensure the completion of critical tasks first and meet immediate deadlines. As we see in the story above, giving the source of the workload a chance to prioritize the workload is not always an option. The project manager or team must discuss the workload to see what is possible. Prioritize by:
- technically fundamental for the product
- immediate customer benefit
- ability to undertake due to available talent and resources
- Delegating tasks: Managers should delegate tasks to team members based on their strengths and workload capacity. This can help ensure task completion efficiently and effectively. Managing project workload will require delegation. Before this delegation occurs, the project manager should review the team's workload. Additionally, and perhaps for another post, metrics will be necessary to understand the state of the tasks at the detail level.
- Break down complex tasks: If a job seems overwhelming or complicated, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. This disaggregation makes the task more approachable and helps you progress quickly. This breakdown also helps with prioritization.
- Setting realistic deadlines: It's essential to set realistic deadlines for tasks so employees have enough time to complete them without feeling overwhelmed. However, we have learned over the years that, what seems to be a realistic deadline, runs up against marketing commitments or other organizational priorities.
- Using technology: Technology can help streamline processes and automate tasks, which can help employees complete tasks more quickly and efficiently. Using technology is critical for workload management. The marketplace offers such that if one doesn't work, try something else.
- Managing interruptions: Employees should manage interruptions and distractions, such as emails and phone calls, so they don't disrupt their workflow and lead to productivity loss. The project manager should also shield the team from some of these intrusions to prioritize the project. Plan your day carefully. Setting times to answer or return calls and review emails is a great help with managing your workload. For instance, I go back to the days before cell phones. A call comes through on a landline, and I am not there, the person will leave a message or call back. I do the same with my cell phone unless the caller is my direct manager or the client.
- Take breaks: It's essential to take regular intervals throughout the day to avoid burnout and stay refreshed. In addition, taking short breaks can help you recharge and improve your productivity when you return to work.
- Communicate with your team: If you're working on a team project, communicate with your team members regularly to ensure the effective distribution of the effort and that everyone is on the same page.
Workload Management and Metrics
Delegation and metrics are inherently connected if you wish to manage a project effectively. Tracking work progress is the mechanism by which the project manager can understand what is happening in the project. This use of metrics is not limited to task and schedule progress.
For example, how do we objectively know whether a task is 25% or 75% complete?
If you have managed project teams, you may have encountered the phenomenon of a team member reporting a level of completion, for example, 30% complete over a few reporting periods. Or how about this one?
The task is almost completed over a few reporting periods, only to find out when the task is to be completed, the task is more like 10% satisfied. Determining agreed-upon metrics with those doing the work is critical for predictions and response planning.
Overall, effective workload management involves a combination of prioritization, delegation, time management, and technology usage and can help employees and organizations achieve their goals while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Work-life balance is also critical for sustainability.
A daily or weekly plan by the project manager or team member should include one's tasks. Being able to destress and take one's mind off the work helps complete the job.