Heavy Workload – And What to Do About It

Wondering how to handle the heavy workload of employees effectively, but don't know where to start? We've got some tips for you.
Shannon Toe

Does your team feel stressed? Do they dread each working day? Do the words 'burnout' and 'breaking point' always resonate in your workplace? Then your team or some of your team members may be experiencing excessive workload problems.

Heavy workload has always been linked to a negative impact on employees' mental and physical health. The study by the World Health Organization concluded that working 55 hours per week is killing 398,000 people from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease each year. People who work long hours are at a 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of heart disease than those working 35-40 hours per week. The digital service sector employees, especially those coming from design, software, and architecture firms, are often overutilized because of the fast-paced environment they are dealing with on a daily basis. The need to serve to multiple clients at once results in work piles, often with simultaneous deadlines.

Avoiding heavy workloads is one of the primary responsibilities of managers. With the growth of digital businesses and online markets, you need to make sure you are providing the best guide to your team amidst the high demands and work pressure. Ready to effectively manage and bring optimized results at the same time? Read on to find out how!

What is a heavy workload?

The concept of a heavy workload is not a new term anymore: it is not only familiar to many employees, but at risk of becoming a norm in almost every organization.

A heavy workload happens when an employee's workload exceeds what should be expected of them, in terms of the amount of hours or intensity of work. Usually, excessive workload results from an employee having to go beyond the routine range or level of duties for their position, and can be a result of different organizational factors like cutting budget costs, unfair treatment at work, lack of role transparency, and lack of support from managers.  

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The impact of heavy workload on team members

Why is workload management important? The topic has been a controversy since the 1980's. One of the horror stories that sparked the debate was when a 45-year old Japanese design engineer reportedly died of brain hemorrhage from working 2,600 hours a year. In 2011, a 25-year-old Chinese woman died of acute meningitis after being employed for just 6 months in an auditing firm. Another Japanese worker died in 2017 after logging in 159 hours of overtime in a month for a media company. These are only some of the cases of the toxic job culture "work to death" and its proven negative impact.

The effects of heavy workload do not end with the employees' physical deterioration. Team members are also prone to suffer social and mental collapse as well. Employees who have too much workload suffer from poor work-life balance, higher stress levels, and results to substandard employee performance.

Organizational workload management challenges

These low-quality outputs from the overwhelming workload and longer hours from more tasks are in turn affecting business production, and loss of clients along the way. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reports workplace stress causes around 1 million workers to miss work daily, with US businesses losing up to $300 billion yearly as a result. Here are a few challenges organizations are facing:

  • Misdirected or lack of workload management skills, where project managers are not trained to face issues that can affect the entire team's performance
  • Too many deadlines caused by poor time management
  • A compounding effect, where one deadline results in the team focusing on that one task, leaving behind all the other tasks. These go on to form tomorrow's heavy workload.

Tips on how to manage heavy workload effectively

So now we know the effects of heavy workload on your staff and business, the next step is to look at how to handle a heavy workload. Here are some of the most effective ways you can approach your entire workload, or a particular task.

Create a to-do list

Not everything can be done by a single person, and not everyone has the ability to take on additional tasks with the same level of efficiency. Setting a list will help in prioritizing important tasks, and help you stay focused.

A daily to-do list is a good way to start working out your priorities. You can then increase your list to plan your week, month, and annual business activities. Try to lessen attention on low-priority tasks first and return to them when you have extra time.

Segmentation of heavy workload activities

Working on multiple tasks or projects simultaneously may make you feel like you are handling your tasks effectively, but research shows the opposite is true. Try to avoid multitasking in this way, because it will only result in half-quality output and stressed employees. Instead, manage time-consuming tasks by cutting them into chunks of smaller tasks so team members can focus on one task at a time.

Involve your team

Foresee, plan ahead and sit down with the team. Focus on all the tasks that might eat up your time to balance out your schedule and time frame.

Divide work equally and evenly

Manage a heavy workload by using each team member's strengths and capacity to tailor-fit tasks. Time management is also important to instill in your team, so you also help them develop these skills.

Set achievable deadlines

Effective communication between clients and each team member allows you to set transparent goals mean realistic deadlines. It helps save time: a precious non-renewable resource you can have as a manager.

Take a short break

Creative re-routing of stress into other tasks like inviting your team to a yoga sesh, a walk outside, or to the coffee shop to give you a quick boost in both confidence and productivity. Regular breaks have been shown to improve productivity and help your team work effectively.

Feedback on workload management skills

Self-reflection of team and individual performances on project implementation is also essential, particularly after difficult tasks. What were their responsibilities? Were they productive? How could they approach these tasks next time? Support and recognition from their superiors will help them stay motivated and avoid burnout.

Final Thoughts

As team managers, it is essential to deal with workload management. Allowing a heavy workload to take over will have unfortunate consequences on the you and the whole team. Important resources can be affected: human resources, time, and business costs.

These tips on how to manage a heavy workload effectively are just some of the suggestions that could work in your organization. It all boils down to how you maintain your cool while setting realistic goals, complete tasks, and prioritize business deadlines - while achieving a healthy work-life balance.

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