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Natalia Rossingol

Understand & Improve Team Workload Management

Keeping team workloads balanced can feel a bit like herding cats. Luckily, there are tricks and tools you can use to improve team workload management.

In a way, managing team workload is like playing chess: you have to make decisions based on many factors, do some forecasting, and face the consequences - either losing or winning.

But that's just a game, right? In real life, you cannot just start over. If you make the wrong move, you need to deal with frustration, lots of headache, and, quite probably, revenue loss. 

Team workload management is not an easy thing. People on the team have different skills. They can be involved in different projects. They may not always be available.

Yet, if you do some planning and use the right tools, this task stops looking that complicated.

And here is how to do it.  

What is team workload management?

Workload management is a broad term that refers to handling the workload of employees by assigning tasks based on their priority and employee availability. Team workload management is a narrower concept: it concerns managing a specific team’s workload.

In larger organizations that consist of two or more departments, there is more than one team. So it makes sense to look at those teams as separate units – because even though they are inseparable from the rest of the teams as a part of the whole, each team works in a smaller environment and has its own microclimate. 

And each team is unique. The number of people who work on it, their personalities, their preferences, and the peculiarities of the work they do make the team different from the others. That is why team workload management is important – it factors in the needs of each specific group of employees.

Challenges in team workload management

An individual vs. a team

Measuring the workload of a specific individual is not that hard: you analyze what projects the person is involved into, if that workload is optimal, and if you should reassign the person or the projects.

However, measuring the workload of an entire team is a whole different process. You still have to look at what each individual is working on – but you must also consider how the work of this individual fits in the bigger picture, in relation to the rest of the team.

In practice, this means that if one person’s workload is too big, you won’t only need to reduce that workload but also find another person to assign that piece too.

A Team vs. Multiple Teams

Figuring out the workload and capacity of a single team is not the same as trying to measure the workload of several teams.

To do the latter, a manager (or a resource manager) would have to do an extensive workload analysis, calculating how many people are needed to do a particular project and measuring the current workload of particular teams (which still includes analyzing the workload of particular employees.)

And since it’s more than one project and more than one team, the scope of work here might seem to be limitless.

That is a challenging task, as it involves a lot of calculations and talking. The work of a manager is multiplied by the number of teams, which means more workload schedules, more reassigning for the relevance of the projects, and more forecasting.    

Further reading ➡️ 5 Tips to Balance Your Team's Workload.

Benefits of effective team workload management

A more holistic approach to teamwork

In an organization, no one works in isolation from the rest of the team. This means the workload of each individual on the team directly affects the workload of the other team members. Only by looking at a team as a whole, can you achieve smooth teamwork and great team performance.

Better collaboration

Team-based workload management helps unify the efforts of all the team members, directing those efforts at one ultimate goal. By tackling various workload-related issues like uneven workload distribution, under- or overresourcing, or unrealistic expectations caused by poor project planning, a manager lays the foundation for a respectful work environment where people are willing to collaborate and contribute.

Fair employee treatment

Unequal workload distribution inevitably leads to different problems that negatively impact both morale and, logically, the final result. Lack of motivation and job satisfaction, burnout, missed deadlines, and even a project failure – these are all possible consequences of neglecting a fair workload assessment.

Easy forecasting

Team workload analysis will show you how many resources you may possibly need to hire and what skill sets you will be looking for. It might appear your team lacks specialists with particular knowledge, or that your people, figuratively speaking, simply need another pair of hands. The analysis will help you plan your staffing. 

Curious about how you can use data to forecast resource needs and build a case for new hires? Find out How to Identify Hiring Needs ➡️

How to improve your team workload management process

Start with team workload analysis

Before you make any management decisions, you need to know what you’re working with. That’s why you need to actually analyze your team’s workload – which is, the workload of individual employees on your team, as well as project’s requirements.

This will help you see your team's capacity: who is available, who is already booked, and give you an idea of what to do next. Based on the current situation, you may need to reschedule your resources, reprioritize tasks, or even hire additional specialists, either full- or part-time.  

Great news is that you don’t need to do workload planning all by hand – there are workload management tools that can help you organize all the team workload information, keep it in one place, track it, and make adjustments.

For example, in Runn, you can see all confirmed workload, tentative workload, and the impact of this work on the effective capacity of your team. Runn also lets you switch between capacity, availability, and utilization to get down to the data you need.

In addition to this, in Runn, you can do workload forecasting – predicting or anticipating the demands of current or future projects. This allows you to enhance your planning process: calculate possible risks, determine hiring and upskilling needs, and this way, prepare for future projects.

Runn’s capacity management features allow users to put projects on the charts and then explore how resources are being utilized, what the overall pool capacity is, and check individual and team availability. 

Create a workload schedule for your team

In team workload management, a workload schedule is an irreplaceable tool. Firstly, it enables you to keep track of resources, providing visibility for both the manager and each team member about their daily tasks and timeframes. Secondly, it means that all team members can see their schedules in advance and get an idea of what is assigned to them.

A workload schedule plays a vital role in creating a fair work environment, as it helps you balance any over- or underallocations. As we mentioned above, poor workload distribution causes resentment and interpersonal conflicts on the team that might contribute to employee turnover, which is costly to the company. 

Overworked employees are not just stressed and resentful – they’re unlikely to hit all their deadlines, as there is so only much they can do with the time they have.

Employees who, on the contrary, don’t get enough work to do may feel excluded and not appreciated – and sometimes, even anxious, since they don’t understand why their skills are not used.

However, with a workload schedule, you can easily avoid these problems and create a positive work culture.  

🚁 Get a helicopter view of who's doing what. Runn brings visibility to your team's time and workload, helping you find the sweet spot between "time out" and "burnout". Try for free today.

Don't allocate 100% of people's time

A typical mistake some managers make is assuming that employees must be booked to work at 100% capacity all of the time. But this is simply unrealistic.

Working at 100% of time is unsustainable and, as a result, unproductive. An employee who doesn't have a moment of slack time in their day to catch up with emails, take a lunch break, stay on top of their timesheets, help their peers, or even just to have a conversation with teammates, is going to be more likely to make mistakes - as well as being more prone to illness, stress, and burn out.

So what is an effective workload management solution here? It’s simple – allocate 80% of an employee’s time for billable work, leaving 20% of their time unallocated so they can do their admin, take breaks, join meetings, and build good relationships with folks in their team.

In a standard eight-hour workday, this looks like leaving just over 90 minutes unallocated.

Final thoughts

Resource management cannot be truly effective without proper team workload management. Assigning tasks based on skills is great, but assigning tasks to someone who has the skills and is available is even better. By creating team's workload schedules and doing some forecasting with the help of workload management software, you do not put your people in tight frames – on the contrary, this is how you show them that you care about their well-being, as well as the well-being of the project.

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