Workload management is not the same as time management. It requires a strategic approach that satisfies workload demands, stays on schedule, and keeps teams productive. Managers must factor in the skills, experience, and availability of every team member and do their best to ensure the work distribution is equitable so everyone can enjoy work-life balance.
Traditional scheduling tools like paper and pencil or spreadsheets don’t add much value when it comes to solving scheduling problems. Too often, some team members will be overbooked while others work below capacity. According to productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, “If you overwork your high performers, you will lose them because they start to resent the fact that they’re doing more.”
Why is Workload Management so Important?
A survey conducted by the Project Management Institute found that an average 12 percent of projects failed in 2021. In many cases, failure was caused by outdated processes that wasted resources. Proper workload management can improve team performance by optimizing work distribution and predicting resource bottlenecks before they occur. As a result, team members are more invested in their work and more motivated to be productive.
The resources available to a team include more than the efforts of team members. Meeting rooms, equipment, outside consultants, and other resources also need to be used as effectively as possible. Workload management tools can schedule and allocate these resources, too.
Utilizing Workload Management Tools
Workload management tools are software platforms that support resource allocation and time tracking while automating many repetitive management tasks. They do what computers are good at—storing, sorting, and reporting on workload data. They are typically available on a variety of devices (such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones) so you can access them whenever and wherever you need them. There are a variety of systems available with different levels of customer service, so it pays to do some research to find the best one for your organization.
Workload management tools help you break projects into tasks and subtasks. The next step is assigning a priority to each task. Prioritization is one of the greatest sources of frustration for team members when it comes to workload management. Making everything high priority often means that something truly important won’t get done, so establishing a methodology for assigning priorities is one of the most important management tasks. Besides a task’s importance, the effort involved to complete it should be factored into its priority. For example, a very important task that requires several weeks of effort will probably be prioritized below one that requires less time.
Most workload management software lets a manager and team members see what’s happening with the team workload on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. It can also help forecast workloads and commitments weeks or months into the future to help managers allocate future tasks with some degree of confidence.
Providing Flexibility and Consistency
Workload management systems are designed to support changes to available resources at any point in the schedule. This allows managers to be more flexible with their teams. If a team member needs time off or would like a different assignment, the change can be propagated automatically through the system. Any resource gaps that appear will be flagged and can be addressed.
When done correctly, workload management increases productivity and engagement across the team. Good workload management dispels the chaos that occurs when people are confused about their work assignments and deadlines. This is more important than ever with so many employees working remotely. Although some companies are returning to an in-person work model, Owl Labs reports that over 60 percent of employees are still working remotely either full- or part-time. Having a good work-life balance is one of the main reasons remote work has retained its popularity even after the pandemic.