An Uneven Workload – Is It Already Affecting Your Team?

When working on a project, one of the things that should get a lot of attention is definitely a balance of  workload among the team members. For a manager, it is never an easy task to do and to do it right. The SmartBrief pool, conducted two years ago, counted more than 190,000 business leaders who were asked: “How well do you balance the workload among members of your team?”

Their responses were:

  • Very well – work is allocated fairly and effectively: 28.57%
  • Well – work allocations are fair for the most part: 61.9%
  • Not well – work allocations are often unfair and ineffective: 7.79%
  • Poorly – I have a great deal of difficulty allocating work: 1.73%

Pretty stunning results, wouldn’t you agree? What the problem is, is that sometimes the leader’s perspective and the team member’s perspective significantly differ.

Well, first of all, we have to think about the sophisticated (and not so sophisticated) differences between all employees’ abilities. Sometimes, those are highly apparent, and sometimes they can be hard to spot. However, the workflow and results of every team member individually are there to help us determine which employee is always volunteering for the hardest projects and burning the midnight oil, and which of other workers misses deadlines, shows up late, and turns in low-quality work.

An “even” distribution is not always a solution either. What even distribution means, in fact, is that everyone should be taking on the task of the same size and complexity. And do all team members have the same capabilities? No, we are not. So, this approach does not guarantee an even workload. Quite the contrary.

Because you see, what may take someone a few hours to finish, might take someone else the entire day. Or two. It is up to the manager to properly delegate work so that your employees’ skills complement each other.

Leong Chee Tung, chief executive officer of HR start-up EngageRocket, and former managing consultant for Gallup, armed with his experience once said:

“In the civil service, the most talented staff writers get assigned more papers to write; in sales teams, the most prolific salespeople get assigned the most leads; in engineering teams, the best engineers get assigned the most requests and the list goes on.”

Since this a far too common practice, it’s necessary to look at ways to avoid the disadvantages of an uneven workload.

Consequences of imbalanced teamwork

What first comes to mind is frustration. Followed by dissatisfaction and team conflict. But maybe the most harmful consequence of this bad practice is what happens to individual motivation of team members. When an uneven workload is exercised, the personal needs of the employee suffer and that has a negative impact on their overall motivation and, therefore – their actions and productivity.

In a 2017 survey, 60 percent of workers said that work-related pressure has increased over the past five years and as much as one-third of respondents cited excessive workloads and tight deadlines as their biggest concerns. Another 22 percent were struggling to balance work and personal life.

Normally, people care about their jobs. However, their personal life can get warped up with work pressure.  Their morale is affected and it hurts the organization in the end. This is especially common within small organizations that downsized to cut costs, expecting people to take on more work.

Low employee morale always negatively impacts performance, productivity, and revenue. When employees are stressed and overworked, they are simply not able to perform optimally.

And can working in that kind of atmosphere be healthy, productive, and effective? Of course not.

Under-productivity on one, and over-productivity on the other side requires urgent and well-planned rebalance by the manager. That is done by assessing the situation thoroughly and involving the team in efforts to determine how best to divide the work.

First steps in overcoming uneven workload

Before you do anything, take some time (and effort) to determine the relative strengths of team members. Only then you should be assigning the work accordingly.

It’s a bit excessive to say how communication is critical for such a direction to take place. However, it’s often the missing ingredient in manager-employee relationships.

You can make an intersection (and introspection) of your team’s strengths and weaknesses by identifying what your employee results have been so far, interests they’ve shared, and the previous work opportunities. One by one, you will need to pay close attention to every detail just to get the full picture. Is their performance really below standard? Do they lack the required knowledge or skill? And so on and so on…

Try to understand how every team member sees their performance and if they think there is a problem. If there is a problem, does it involves some undergoing health issues or some other personal issue which then affects that employee’s ability? If so, provide them with support.

Be sure to develop a plan to manage the team’s workload until things improve. Whatever you do, don’t overwork your highest performers or pile on the pressure for unproductive team members. Never avoid difficult conversations with low-performing team members and for God’s sake, don’t leave any uncertainty about roles.

Collaboration tools and their role in fighting unbalanced teamwork

As we already said, transparent communication and delegation are everything. There is no quality teamwork without the two. Collaboration tools can really help with that. They are designed and created especially to help people collaborate. The purpose of a collaboration tool is to support a group of two or more individuals to accomplish a common goal or objective. When everybody knows his or hers responsibilities the chances of slacking and missing deadlines are minimized.

Dependency between tasks is also another perk of these tools and very helpful when working on complex projects. When knowing that someone out there is waiting for you to finish a task so he or she can start theirs will accelerate you and your productivity.

Another benefit is the fact that these apps are usually made to give you information instantly and in a practical way. Visual boards are at your disposal so you can see, as well as search for, tasks that are attributed to someone. The entire project is presented in such a manner that any team member is able to get the grip of the current situation and to find himself within, knowing what is their next move.

This makes it pretty easy to manage the team, as the manager can be noted about any aspect of the work just by clicking the mouse.

Not many tools have some sort of reporting module where you can get a quick overview of someone’s responsibilities, however, Teodesk integrated this feature just for the sake of getting things done and in order.

No more ignored issues, neglected order, and no more miscommunication. For once, technology is working in our interest and an uneven workload might just be the thing of the past. Hold on and we’ll see.

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