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How to Manage a Staff That’s Overworked

How to Manage a Staff That’s Overworked
    overworked from Vinet_ on flickr

    There are few managers out there today who are not coping with this issue.  Many of us are working on departments that are expected to be more productive with a lower headcount.  However, when your staff begins to complain that they’re overworked, you have received a dangerous signal that they are burning out and may look elsewhere when the market improves.

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    Stop the Fire Hose

    A good first step in managing your team’s workload is to sit down with each employee individually and list the tasks they should be completing on a daily basis.  Note who is authorized to delegate work to them, and the type of assignments they should be prepared to accept both from you and your fellow managers.   If there are assignments coming in to the employee that you don’t feel they should be working on, take it up with the other manager so that the employee is not caught in the middle.

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    Help Them Prioritize

    In the event that the employee is overwhelmed with tasks that are in their jurisdiction, help them prioritize the ones that are most important and backburner the others.  Encourage the employee to be open and honest with you about whether or not your expectations and timelines are reasonable.  Make sure they have the tools necessary to do their jobs well, and that you try to clear obstacles from their path.  If the job itself is causing burnout, switch things up as much as you can, and support your staff taking on new and varied responsibilities.

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    Encourage Work/Life Balance

    It helps to reassure your staff that work will always be there, and that they should devote energy to their lives outside of work.  As long as they are getting results, don’t balk if they leave early to hit the gym or take a class.  Don’t forget to model work/life balance as much as you can, because if your employees see that you devote adequate time to your personal life, they will be more likely to follow suit.

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    Provide Appropriate R&R (Rewards and Recognition)

    When your staff is worked to the bone, your first instinct might be to pay them more to keep them going.  In the absence of a formal raise, which may only be given at a certain time of year, you look to the bonus.  Surprisingly, though, most organizational psychologists will tell you that money is not a top employee motivator and that you should make an effort to customize rewards and recognition to the individual.  This might take the form of a comp day or a dinner out on the company, or even just a thoughtful e-mail.

     Celebrate Achievement

    Your reports may be the type to appreciate organization-wide recognition, so consider making use of your company’s “employee of the month” program or annual award ceremony.  If an employee successfully finishes a project, put an announcement on the Intranet site or in the e-newsletter, and plan an impromptu celebration.  Also, build in opportunities to acknowledge everyone on the team by writing down the dates of your employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries and taking time out of the business day to observe them.

    Finally, it can never hurt to stop by your employee’s office every so often and reiterate your thanks for how hard they’ve worked during a hectic time.  By showing that you care about them and vocalizing your appreciation, they will likely continue to perform well and stay loyal to you when the tide turns.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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