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How do you manage work overload?

It is important to have a plan in place - these strategies should help to maintain workloads while still achieving objectives.

Support

Be honest about the pressure that you or your team are under. There is often a fear of saying ‘no’, leading to taking on extra work. Explain the situation without coming across as complaining, and be prepared to accept that there are genuine reasons to ‘increase the workload’. Having the support of management and guiding their expectations can allow you to negotiate a better solution for all.

Communication

An overworked team will fail without support. Be proactive about checking in with team members regularly. Be open and honest and nurture an environment to allow people to ‘air’ their thoughts. This will enable everyone to be more switched onto everyone’s needs and best placed to respond effectively.

Prioritise

Under pressure employees tend to struggle with time management, spending too much time on non-essential tasks. Prioritise tasks through To-Do Lists and rank tasks by importance. Take into consideration the team’s goals, your role, what you excel at, and the time required for each task. Plan ahead and review regularly.

Concentrate

When under pressure it is good to know everyone is putting their time to the best use. Allow everyone to concentrate on their most important tasks. Minimise distractions, keep meetings short and to the point and for important meetings, use an agenda.

"Deep work"

Deep work is the focus, without distraction, on demanding tasks or large volumes of work. To work, specific scheduled times for uninterrupted work is required. It is crucial to have a state of flow and focus - turn off phones and social media, close unused documents, pages or emails. When overloaded we tend to multitask and are easily distracted, taking longer to return to and complete more important tasks.

Performance

If the workload seems acceptable yet everyone seems overloaded, there may be something amiss. There may be an issue with equipment being slow or outdated, or a need for training for certain tasks. Otherwise, there could be other issues such as attitude or someone’s poor performance.

Capacity

The solution to being overloaded may be as simple as bringing in some new recruits. Would taking on an assistant or outsourcing some work be an option? Have people left, leaving the team to shoulder the workload? Before any recruitment, look to any procedural or personal issues the team has and address these promptly to avoid further losses.

Alternatives

Firefighting or working harder and faster is only a short-term fix – it should never be the norm. Look for a real solution by reassessing deadlines, or redistributing tasks within or beyond the team. Consider if the work can be rescheduled - postponed, divided or even simplified.

For more job seeking and career management tips please visit Advice and Tips on our website.