Workload management: 9 tips to improve your team’s efficiency
Last updated on: January 27, 2023
We know that managing teams and projects can get quite challenging, whether you’re a beginner or not.
As a project manager, you often need to juggle all the work, plus, take care of your team at the same time.
Luckily, some strategies can help you manage workloads more effectively.
In this blog post, we’ll uncover 9 tips that every project manager should know about workload management that’ll help improve your team’s efficiency.
So, keep reading.
What is workload management?
Whatever project you’re currently working on, you’ll need to plan and control your team’s workload.
And, planning your workload properly and responsibly will get you one step closer to project success.
Successful workload management is the process of distributing the right tasks to the right team members fairly and evenly, while at the same time ensuring they can perform their tasks:
- On time, and
- Without stress.
All in all, by managing the project workload so that it boosts your team’s productivity and efficiency — you will have fulfilled your goal of becoming a skillful project manager.
Why is workload management important?
Finding an optimal workload for your team has several benefits, including:
- Using your resources in the best way possible,
- Optimizing project schedules,
- Delivering the best outcomes,
- Reducing stress and anxiety, and
- Avoiding burnout.
So, as learning how to create a balanced workload obviously pays up — it’s time to prepare for some note-taking about how to improve your team’s efficiency through proper workload management.
9 Tips to improve your team’s efficiency through proper workload management
Successfully completing a complex project might at first feel like a tough nut to crack.
At some point, you might feel as if you’re not up to the task.
But, don’t worry!
We’ve prepared 9 actionable project management tips to immediately improve your team’s efficiency, and thus make you a workload management guru who calls their projects successful:
- Have clear goals
- Use a workload management tool
- Break down tasks into smaller chunks
- Match the right people to the right tasks
- Create flexible working hours
- Categorize tasks
- Foster positive energy in the workplace
- Set realistic deadlines
- Remain flexible
Now, let’s dig deeper into these tips!
Tip #1: Have clear goals
Know where you’re heading, and — you’re more likely to actually get there.
Aimlessly wander around the infinite realm of project management, and — you’ll probably end up being lost.
To prevent this bad scenario from happening — have your final goal serve as a lighthouse on the horizon, to navigate your way.
So, before embarking on the project mission, here’s what you should do:
- Think of the bigger picture — i.e. what the ultimate goal is.
- Think of all the small steps that will gradually get you there.
When you and your team have a list of both short-term and long-term goals, and you know what you’re going for — you’ll be more motivated to work towards achieving it.
All the tasks that you need to do, even the small ones, will feel fundamental, and will give your team members a sense of purpose.
Tip #2: Use a workload management tool
The nature of how we work is getting reshaped as we speak.
Digitalization offers many tools to help you manage all types of tasks, and this includes workload management tasks.
Plaky is a perfect tool to manage any type of project, and turn workload planning from complicated to easy and fun.
Here’s what managing workloads looks like in Plaky:
In a Plaky workspace, you can create boards for your projects and organize workloads however you want, as the customization options are endless.
For example, you can divide workloads by groups, and then further specify them by adding specific tasks.
Moreover, you can add columns for any other important task details, such as:
- Documents, and
- Project-specific labels (e.g. types, priorities, statuses, etc.)
Plaky will secure you an easy, transparent, and intuitive workload management process as you can control and monitor the entire project with a single tool.
The fun part is — you get to organize everything by colors, making your workspace visually appealing, and easy to navigate.
Apart from project managers, all the other project team members will be able to access relevant project information at any time.
Keeping the entire team in the loop with all project ongoings will directly increase the team’s overall efficiency.
Tip #3: Break down tasks into smaller chunks
Breaking down complex structures and projects into smaller chunks — i.e. tasks and subtasks — will facilitate your team’s workload.
Demanding your team members to finish too complex tasks at once might be too intimidating, and discouraging.
This could further trigger the occurrence of unwanted project risks, such as missed deadlines.
To avoid your team members feeling overwhelmed with the workload, you should best break it into more manageable units.
At this point, project managers can create a work breakdown structure (WBS) — a hierarchical breakdown of the project scope into its smaller constituent tasks.
The use of project management tools such as Plaky, can be perfect for creating a visual work breakdown structure.
As you can see, in Plaky, you can create a transparent visual representation of your project, and share it with your team.
Having the project simplified and broken down into parts will allow both you and your team to visualize the process and better understand its scope.
Tip #4: Match the right people to the right tasks
Assigning appropriate tasks to individual team members increases the efficiency of the whole team.
Any great project manager will know what each of their team members’ capacities and preferences are.
So, skilled project managers will be aware of their team members’ specific:
- Skills, and
- Project experience.
These individual factors can, to a large degree, determine the team members’ capacities for the completion of certain tasks.
You should also be careful about the actual workload you assign to individuals.
A productivity expert and author, Julie Morgenstern, has the following to say on the subject of assigning tasks to individuals, as cited in the article “Make Sure Your Team’s Workload Is Divided Fairly”:
“If you overwork your high performers, you will lose them because they start to resent the fact that they’re doing more”. If you’re taking away work from people who are slower, they will lose interest.“
So, a skilled project manager doesn’t neglect individual factors when distributing tasks, as it has a significant impact on the team’s overall motivation and performance.
If you’re not exactly sure which task will suit what team member — here is what you can do about it:
- Encourage open team communication, to figure out preferences and what motivates individuals to work,
- Be actually interested to hear more about individual team members,
- Involve your team in the planning process — it helps in establishing trust, and
- Encourage independence, e.g. — let team members pick their own tasks.
Tip #5: Create flexible working hours
The new, post-pandemic remote and hybrid work era has brought many changes to people’s work habits and expectations.
According to the Gartner 2021 survey, flexibility in working hours is the most cited factor enabling greater productivity, selected by 43% of respondents whose work-from-home time increased since January 2020.
Therefore, all project managers should try to provide enough work schedule flexibility to their teams, giving them the freedom to work at their own pace.
Flexible work hours will not only increase the team’s productivity levels, but will also positively affect individual team members’ well-being.
Tip #6: Categorize tasks
Another good way to help your team manage their workload is to categorize their tasks and assignments.
If your team members are faced with too many random tasks all at once, they might feel overburdened.
As a result, they might be less efficient in completing their tasks, as they simply won’t know where to start.
To prevent this chaos that could arise without transparent workload management — it’s a good idea to categorize your teams’ tasks by the groups they belong to.
For example, in Plaky, you can use different categories to specify tasks by adding:
- Labels (e.g. department labels, such as Development, Design, or Marketing),
- Statuses (e.g. To do, In Progress, or Done), or
- Priorities (e.g. High, Medium, or Low).
Categorizing tasks by their priority and status will help team members:
- Focus on one task at a time,
- Prevent multitasking that actually reduces productivity by as much as 40%, and
- Keep the team informed on who’s doing what task.
Tip #7: Foster positive energy in the workplace
In their article, “The best leaders have a contagious positive energy”, Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron refer to great team leaders as positive energizers.
According to their research on positive leadership, organizations with leaders displaying positive energy are, among other things, more:
- Financially stable, and
However, Seppälä and Cameron also highlight that positivity doesn’t refer to superficial or false positivity, e.g. trying to think happy thoughts and ignoring real problems.
Instead, true positivity is rather a demonstration of good actions, such as:
- Gratitude, and
- Recognition within the organization.
Hence, working in such a healthy and positive environment, your team will naturally achieve greater efficiency at work, and more easily cope with the workload.
Tip #8: Set realistic deadlines
It’s not uncommon that setting unrealistic deadlines leads to unwanted project risks, and can even negatively affect people’s well-being, causing stress or burnout.
Therefore, as a project manager, you should pay special attention to this aspect of workload management.
Assigning deadlines with care is necessary if you want to improve your team’s efficiency and prevent undesired outcomes, such as:
- Missed delivery dates — it could lead to unsatisfied clients and stakeholders.
- Reduced quality of deliverables — if your team always chases an unattainable deadline, their work will eventually result in lower quality.
- Increased costs — if you set your project budget according to these unrealistic deadlines — you’ll probably suffer budget overruns.
- Stress due to working under pressure — stressed team members could start feeling like underachievers, as they can’t meet your expectations. This feeling further lowers their morale and motivation and reduces efficiency.
It’s strange how a single factor such as an unrealistic project deadline may trigger a chain reaction and cause so many additional negative consequences.
The bottom line is — carefully choose deadlines that are based on the realistic capacities of your team, and you will have increased efficiency as a result.
Tip #9: Remain flexible
Another important workload management tip is to keep an eye on the possible changes that can occur down the road.
Although deadlines, acting according to the initial plan, and keeping the scope under control are crucial for project success — it’s equally important to know when it’s a good time to implement changes.
All project managers, especially those working in agile, absolutely must be ready to review and adapt to arising changes.
Sometimes, even outside factors, such as the work environment and the market, dictate these changes.
At this point, it’s your job as a project manager to show that you’re flexible, and respond adequately by rethinking the plan and reassigning certain tasks to maintain the team’s workload in good balance.
All in all, take into consideration both the inside and outside factors that might affect the workload, and make the necessary changes, if needed.
Of course, always follow official change protocols and procedures to avoid scope creep or gold plating.
Flexibility will ensure that the project goals are met smartly and the team members stay on top of their assignments.
Conclusion: A balanced workload = an efficient team
We can freely say that workload management is a challenging task.
Luckily, these 9 useful strategies will help you overcome any difficulties, and easily create balanced workloads:
- Have clear goals to increase your chances of achieving them
- Use a workload management tool to help you organize your workload properly
- Break down tasks into smaller chunks to facilitate your team’s workload management
- Match the right people to the right tasks to increase your team’s motivation and performance
- Create flexible working hours to accommodate different working styles
- Categorize tasks to help your team stay focused on what’s important
- Foster positive energy in the workplace as it’ll help your team members easily cope with their workload
- Set realistic deadlines to avoid unwanted project risks
- Remain flexible to see through all unexpected changes
Following these tips will not only help you use your resources in the best way possible, but it will help deliver the desired project outcomes.
What’s most important — creating a balanced workload will positively affect your team’s performance, and raise their overall efficiency.
✉️ Can you think of any other useful workload management tips? If yes, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may include your ideas in this or a future blog post. Also, if you liked this blog post and found it useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it.