How to Intervene When Your Team Has Too Much Work

What do you do when your team has been given more work but you don’t have the staff to do it all? With the Great Retirement and a struggling economy, more and more team leaders are facing this question. You have to do more with less.

Luckily, there are ways to get the most important things done while staying sane. First, be honest with yourself; An overloaded department will not be able to do everything. Second, consciously prioritize what you do and don’t do. Third, communicate your plan to your boss, including dates if necessary. Fourth, delegate projects to other teams or to external contractors. Fifth, reset expectations with stakeholders. Finally, request more staff. While it’s not an option right now, filing lawsuits early could get you to the top of the list if the budget allows.

You have a job and you work productively at it: you do what needs to be done to advance the projects in your department. As a result, your department has performed so well that it has been “rewarded” – with more work, but without additional staff. You are grateful for the demand for your team’s services, but also feel overwhelmed. How can your department manage more when everyone is already busy?

This is a question that many team leaders face as the Great Resignation reduced the workforce of the companies and at the same time reduced the number of people on the job. And with a recession looming, companies are trying to tighten their balance sheets. The S&P 500 posted its worst performance in over 50 years. In such an uncertain climate, companies are not exactly keen on hiring additional employees, but they still have new innovative work to do. You have to do more with less.

As a time management coach, I help individuals navigate these difficult waters where you are understaffed but over-demanded. There are ways to get the most important things done while staying sane. Here’s how to manage an excessively heavy workload until you can increase your headcount:

Be honest.

One of the phrases I coined in my first book is “reality always wins”. Even if you think that your employees can squeeze more and more into an already busy schedule, at some point something has to give way. Even with the best time management strategies, an overworked department won’t get everything done. Being honest allows you to make proactive decisions to adapt and adapt, rather than making reactive decisions once things start falling apart.

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Consciously prioritize.

The best way I’ve found to visualize the interrelationship of your priorities is what I like to call a “dynamic priority model”: Imagine there’s an infinity pool whose walls are the outer limits of those available represent time. (In the case of department overload, this would be the total number of hours your employees can work.) Then, within this pool, imagine a series of concentric circles representing the different ways your employees use their time. If one of these circles expands – for example to serve more customers – one of the other circles has to contract or fall over the edge.

To maintain optimal effectiveness, you should choose where your team can reduce or completely eliminate time spent, rather than doing it by default. Review the projects and services in your department and reflect on the annual goals. Based on where your team can add the most value and what matters most to the business, take cuts from the lower priorities so you can focus on the higher ones. In addition to communicating this to your team, you should also ask their opinion on what they think is realistic.

If the department’s workload is caused, among other things, by the fact that you have lost employees, the team members have to plan their everyday work differently than before. Instead of falling into the usual routine of time management, they have to think about how to reconcile the most important priorities from the current job and the most important side activities of the departing colleague. As a team leader, you can help by assuring them that it’s okay to set aside some non-essential activities from their current role in order to get the most important work done.

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Communicate priorities to the top.

Not only do you need to align within your team; You also need to communicate with your boss. Proactively raise the issue with your manager by starting the conversation with a clear, firm point of view and listing your priorities. Without this information, your boss may have different expectations of your goals. Being open from the start avoids misunderstandings—and reduces the risk of a negative reaction once you’re on your team’s planned path.

You can come to these discussions from different points of view. One is to present the plan you have created for your department, in which you have identified the activities of greatest value and those that best align with your annual goals. You can frame this discussion in a way that you want to make sure your boss is achieving their goals so you can make strategic decisions to make sure it happens anyway. You can also explain that this means deprioritizing certain items so your team can focus on the most impactful activities.

Some bosses will be unenthusiastic when they hear about projects that you have to abandon or put on hold. In this case, use data to support your argument. Ask your team to keep track of what projects they’re working on, how long those activities take, and how much time it would take to complete the extra activities that aren’t happening right now. Present these findings to support your drive for prioritization.

Finally, once you’ve agreed on priorities, stick to them with your manager. If your staff doesn’t grow, you as a department either can’t take on new tasks or your boss has to make difficult strategic decisions. For example, if she brings up a new initiative, you can say something like, “That sounds like a great idea. If we do that, which project would you like us to cross off our list now?”

Delegate externally.

If you’re maxed out internally, another pressure relief valve is for delegating to people outside your team. Consider whether your organization has shared services that could take on some of the burden of event coordination, travel, design, communications, deck prep, or anything else currently taking up the department’s time. Where you can submit work, do so.

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Another option is to see if the budget is there to bring in external contractors. Could you let a contractor take responsibility for a special project that no one else has the bandwidth to move forward with? If one of your department’s capacity issues is increased customer traffic, could you hire a contractor whose sole responsibility is to respond promptly to customer requests and questions? Get help where you can, even if you can’t onboard a full-time employee just yet.

Reset expectations with stakeholders.

If your department needs to make changes to its priorities or customer service, it’s important to communicate those expectations to everyone involved, whether internal or external. Notify those affected by the changes to let them know if projects are delayed or stopped. For example, if the processing time changes, e.g. B. If items now take two weeks instead of one, let people know in advance so they can plan accordingly.

Not everyone will be happy with postponed projects or longer turnaround times. But it’s better to set expectations upfront than having to deal with angry and disappointed people when you haven’t met their expectations.

Request more staff.

Finally, if your department’s workload has increased and will continue to do so at increased levels, advocate for more staff. It’s unfair to your team if they constantly feel like they’re behind and can’t keep up – not because they’re not trying, but because there’s too much work to do. Even if hiring isn’t an option right now, applying early and often can get you to the top of the list if budget allows.

Assess what your department needs, whether it’s more team members to work on projects or more administrative support, and then do what you can to get the help. It’s one thing when the department is understaffed in a short season. But constant work overload is a recipe for burnout.

Finding yourself in a season where work has increased but your employees haven’t is uncomfortable, but it can be managed. Use the above strategies and remember to take time to rest and recharge each week so you and your team members can create a sustainable work schedule in a challenging work environment.

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