Effective workload management sounds like a simple idea. You just need to assign the right work to the right people. Many hands make light work, right?

It’s harder than it sounds.

Team workload management is a business strategy where you look at all the work that your team needs to complete, then intelligently assign that work to the right people. By focusing on the team’s work as a unit, you reach your goals faster and more efficiently.

Work doesn’t divide evenly. You need to assign work to the best person to do it, but the person with the right skills might already have too much on their plate. Employees with time to take on a new project may not have the right experience.

Some types of work are predictable, and some business needs change every day.

For this reason, honing your workload management skills is well worth the effort.

Why effective workload management is so important

The way you distribute work impacts all areas of your business.

A 2020 study found that employees are less satisfied with their jobs when they think workloads are unbalanced.

Poor workload management also contributes to high turnover, burnout, and overwork. The lack of balance increases stress levels and reduces productivity. It’s not a healthy situation for your team or your business.

You don’t need to look at professional studies to see that badly managed workloads cause problems. Think about how you feel when you have way too much (or way too little) to do. Those frustrations are amplified when you’re part of a team that doesn’t seem to share work fairly.

The opposite is also true.

If you’re great at effective workload management, your team will be happier, healthier, and more productive.

You’ll do more work faster and with fewer people. You can grow your company without needing to spend more money.

Creating a good workload management strategy also helps you become a better manager.

Employees who feel that the team’s workload is unbalanced are less satisfied with their jobs.

When you deeply understand when and how work is getting done, your team feels like you’re more in tune.

Balancing work can even help you identify skill gaps you didn’t know you had.

As you read this post, you might feel like it’s too time-consuming to map out all the things that your team does.

That’s understandable. Especially if you’re already running behind, it’s hard to spend time looking at the work that needs to be done.

Invest that time anyway. You’ll get caught up faster when your team is working at top productivity.

Seeing how your team’s workload is divided is a productive experience by itself.

6 steps to effectively manage your team’s workload

1: List the work that needs to be done

To manage your workload, you need to know everything that must be done and who is available to do it.

List everything your team needs to do and about how long it takes. If you use a time tracking tool, look at that data to help inform your estimates. Include meetings, planned time off, and anything else that takes up work time.

Your own work should be on the list, too. Seeing exactly how you spend your time will help you decide what to delegate.

Dividing work fairly doesn’t always mean dividing work evenly.

If you use task management software, you already have most of this list right there. Be careful to also include all the time-consuming tasks that your software doesn’t track.

Here are some of the miscellaneous items that are often overlooked in this step:

  • Mandatory training –  examples: industry licensing requirements and HR-required company policy reviews
  • Shared administrative tasks – examples: making coffee, getting the mail, and unpacking office supplies
  • Career development – examples: learning new skills and working with internal career counselors
  • Organization and planning – examples: inbox management, returning calls, and cleaning up a messy desk
  • Scheduling – examples: communicating with 3rd party vendors and planning time off
  • Process improvements – examples: testing new tools, documenting processes, and proposing changes to existing procedures

Manage workloads at a glance

Hubstaff Tasks makes it easy to balance work and stay on track.

Your completed list of work might look a little messy. Some things are long-term projects. Some are minor tasks that only need to be done occasionally.

This big picture view is important. Later, you’ll break everything into manageable tasks, but don’t do it yet. Instead, organize your list into groups:

  1. Group project tasks by individual project
  2. Group non-project work tasks by related work (reporting, customer relations, etc.)
  3. Categorize remaining tasks (administrative, housekeeping, culture, etc.)

If you haven’t already, it’s wise to create timelines for your big projects. When you get to step 5 and start assigning or moving tasks between employees, your timelines are especially important.

Now that you have a holistic view of your team’s workload, you’re ready for the next step.

2: Assess your team’s work capacity

Just like in football, every member of your team plays a different position. You need a mix of skills and personalities for success.

Some people can easily juggle multiple tasks and deadlines. Some have highly specialized skills. Because every person and position is different, dividing the workload fairly doesn’t always mean dividing it evenly.

A team leader discussing tasks to her team

Ask each person privately how they feel about their current workload. Take note of who feels comfortable and who wants more or less on their plate. This opens the lines of communication while you get an idea of team member capacity.

Create a chart that includes this information for each team member:

  • Their title and job responsibilities or job description
  • Any additional skills, even if those skills aren’t being used right now
  • A list of all the work they’re currently assigned

Seeing how the workload is divided is often a productive experience by itself. You’ll see where you’re leaning on some people too heavily and underutilizing others.

The next step improves productivity for your entire team. It’s especially important if you have more work than you have time to do.

3: Prioritize and trim

You already mapped out your team’s workload. Now, go back to your list of work and break any big projects into smaller tasks.

Stay open to communication. Your team will find it easier to change when they’re involved in the process.

The goal is to turn your team’s entire workload into a list of tasks that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time by one person. This is how you plan and manage workloads and priorities.

Tasks should be completed in order of importance.

Look closely at low priority work to decide if it needs to get done at all. Trim any needless tasks (like non-productive meetings) and use that time to work on more important things.

Multi-tasking does not work. It stresses people out, reduces their connection to what they’re doing, and lowers cognitive ability. That’s right — multitasking makes you dumber. Temporarily, at least.

Focusing on priority items first helps you decide how to assign tasks.

You don’t want all of your priorities assigned to the same person while the rest of your team works on less important stuff.

Multi-tasking does not work.

4: Communicate with your team

Big changes are difficult. Even if your team has begged for a better workload management process, moving to a new system is uncomfortable.

Make it easier by including your team in the process and communicating openly.

Ask who would like more or fewer tasks. Some people may be interested in learning new skills or taking a different career path.

Talk about the reasons you’re making big changes and stay open to discussion.

It’s easier for your team to handle the transition when they’re deeply involved. There’s a big difference between making something happen and having something happen to you.

5: Reassign tasks

When deciding how to divide the workload in a team, it’s okay if some people have a few more responsibilities.

Some people are more efficient. Some have specialized skills. You have employees who love detail-oriented work and others who hate it.

Assign work that suits a person’s strengths whenever possible.

Divide tasks with larger goals in mind. You accomplish more things faster when everyone works toward the same goal together.

Effective workload management by dividing big tasks into smaller sub-tasks

There are two types of tasks to consider: reoccurring work and project work.

Reassign ongoing things quickly.

There’s no logical stopping point in something like a weekly spreadsheet update, so reassign the work and move on. Trying to transition these things slowly creates more work and confuses your team.

Tasks that are part of a bigger project may need to be transitioned over time. Consider the current progress and whether or not that person wants to keep working on it.

You can choose to let the current person finish up before adjusting responsibilities, or you can reassign it immediately.

Assign work that suits a person’s strengths whenever possible.

6: Effective workload management tools

Starting is the hardest part. Once you’ve got everything set up, keep improving the process to get the most benefit from your efforts.

If you’re looking for low-maintenance workload management, there are some tools that can help you with that.

hubstaff tasks screenshot for effective workload management

Hubstaff Tasks is ideal for this. You can easily see and manage your entire team’s workload. Build custom workflows, then drag and drop to move tasks and ideas wherever they need to go. Use Sprints and intuitive timelines to help your team focus on the highest priorities, and take advantage of automated Stand-ups to spend less time in meetings and more time getting things done.

Set your task due dates according to priority to keep your team on track. Reinforce those priorities whenever you see them starting to drift.

Signs you have a workload management problem

Workload issues aren’t always obvious. Productivity and morale issues have many different causes.

You might think that your team just needs to work more efficiently. Be careful with that assumption.

If you push your team to be more efficient when the real problem is that you’re not managing the workload effectively, your top performers are likely to quit.

Look for these warning signs that you need to balance the workload:

  • Employees complain about having too much or too little work
  • Some people regularly stay late or work extra hours to meet deadlines
  • Your team regularly misses deadlines
  • Your team has more communication issues
  • Employees complain about favoritism
  • People don’t know what to work on
  • Tasks only get done when you ask about them

Employee feedback is a great indicator. If your team is telling you that they have too much work, it’s probably true. Before you push for more efficiency or hire someone new, plan and manage workloads and priorities.

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Your new workload management skills are going to make a big difference for your team. What project will you launch with your extra time? Tell us in the comments.