With many people still working from home, prioritising a heavy workload has become more of a challenge for employees and managers than it was before COVID-19.
Our new remote working reality means many people are juggling large work volumes with new challenges such as disrupted school schedules, the need to self-quarantine, or colleagues taking time off due to illness.
Whether you’re a marketing specialist trying to manage a brand campaign from your lounge, a call centre operator working from home, or a finance manager trying to stay on top of things, the anxiety of an unwieldy workload isn’t conducive to productivity or remaining healthy.
Therefore, HR departments and managers need to prioritise supporting the business to help stressed, burdened and overwhelmed workers take control of their time and workloads.
Here are a few ideas about how managers and HR teams can help colleagues manage the stress of these uncertain times, while remaining efficient and productive.
Resetting expectations about multitasking
More than ever, we are tempted to chip away at a series of jobs simultaneously to stay on top of the workload. Many of them may be trying to make lunch for the kids, type up that urgent report and handle a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call at the same time.
The reality is that nobody can multitask efficiently; what we call ‘multitasking’ usually amounts to switching rapidly between tasks.
This is a productivity killer because our brains are forced to focus on the act of changing gears rather than each of the jobs at hand.
Instead, encourage employees to move through tasks in a systematic way, giving each one the attention it deserves. This will help them achieve the right mindset for the job at hand and they’ll finish it faster.
Setting clear priorities
While micro-managing people would not be recommended, managers can help colleagues be productive by aligning on the focus areas and achievements to be set out on a regular basis that works for both the manager and colleague.
This will assist in prioritisation and for an opportunity for the line manager to assist where there may be blockages. Organising these tasks by importance and setting realistic deadlines can help people remain focused on what matters most to the business.
A daily stand-up meeting where people can report their progress towards key goals, raise any challenges they are facing, and receive new briefs can be a good format for setting these priorities.
Offering a process for escalating issues
People cannot achieve the impossible on their own, but sometimes feel obliged to try to do so anyway. Again, this is doubly true in a COVID-19 disrupted workplace, where people might not have access to their usual water-cooler support network at work.
Rather than leaving them to flounder quietly, ensure that managers and other support is available to them.
Let them know who can help them with specific issues or challenges, and invite them to speak their mind.
Delegating where you can
As a manager or business leader, you need to lead the way in effective time management and task prioritisation.
When you shoulder too much work and responsibility on your own, you could end up burning yourself out or letting down the rest of the team. Examine your workload and identify logical opportunities to delegate portions of work to someone else on your team.
Encouraging colleagues to manage time with care
On top of taking a strategic approach to planning your day, the same keen eye can be applied to how you and your colleagues manage your time daily.
Taking set, non-negotiable breaks can have a powerful impact on productivity – helping you and your team avoid a motivation outage due to tiredness and stress.
Other than that, the key is to identify and eliminate wasted time – whether that’s time spent checking emails throughout the day or attending unnecessary meetings. There are many time management methodologies, and different people swear by different approaches.
What is important is that time and workload management is a skill people can learn. If this is a concern in your business, consider encouraging people to try one of the many stress and time management courses available online.
Putting the right enterprise tools in place
HR automation and employee self-service tools can be valuable in managing today’s workforce challenges, such as having a digital record of employees, tracking COVID-19-related absence, managing employees remotely, and staying connected with them.
These solutions enable business leaders and HR teams to better plan and manage employee capacity at a disruptive time. They also help employees feel connected to the business, even when they are not able to physically come into the office.