A full pipeline is a great indicator of your business’s health, but to keep your team happy and successful, you’ll need a proper workload management strategy that prevents burnout and keeps projects on track.
A workload management system is a step-by-step process that makes it easier to plan, schedule, and distribute tasks among your team. Completing a project from start to finish includes many factors, from validating your team’s capacity, to assigning responsibilities and executing the tasks.
Ensuring your projects run smoothly requires a detailed plan before your team can get started, and how you manage your team’s workload will determine if your project can be delivered on time (and on budget). It will also give your team the confidence that they need to produce quality work without experiencing the stress and panic that comes with burnout.
Mapping out your plan
Building a workload management strategy can be done in a few simple steps, including identifying work, planning for capacity, prioritizing, and managing tasks.
Step 1: Break down the work
It’s easy to jump into a project without understanding the full scope, resulting in an overwhelming workload. To prevent this mistake, it’s critical to first determine the tasks and deliverables for the assignment. This way you know how long your team will need to tackle each element of the project.
Use a Work Breakdown Structure to visualize project tasks, map the steps, and set deadlines.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you're a social media agency, and your project is to deliver a campaign for a new apparel company. The first step is to understand the primary goal. In this case, the goal is to build a set of images that increases the company’s visibility on their platforms and captures their target audience.
After determining the goal, it’s time to identify the high-level tasks that your team needs to achieve the goal. For this project, the high-level tasks would be:
Determine the campaign theme
Identify necessary graphic elements
Produce the content
These tasks are the first level of planning — next you need to break them down into subtasks. In this example, the subtasks for determining the campaign theme could include:
Build audience persona
Research successful campaigns
Once you identify all tasks and subtasks, you can lay out what the timeline would look like in order to accomplish everything successfully.
Tip: Harvest can not only help you track time across various project tasks but also provide insights on how to plan the best timelines with visual reports. The reports show which tasks are consuming your team’s time the most, so you can make smarter decisions with detailed data on where your team’s time goes so you can plan what’s next.
Step 2: Identify your team’s capacity
Planning for capacity is the most important part of managing your team’s workload. Doing so ensures your ability to identify if an employee has room in their schedule to take on a new project.
To calculate capacity, you can use resource utilization — a metric that keeps track of employee workload. It measures how much work employees can withstand before experiencing burnout.
According to resource management agency ProSymmetry, you should aim for a utilization rate of around 80%. Anything more than that poses the risks of too much work, and anything below is an indicator that you’re not using your resources to their full potential.
The 80% target rate also allows for a 20% buffer rate that gives your team time to complete other tasks in their day, like responding to emails and maintaining other client relationships.
Harvest’s visual reports are also a great tool for calculating capacity. With capacity reporting, you can see who’s overworked (and who’s under-utilized) at-a-glance.
Step 3: Assign tasks based on skill and capacity
If you’ve determined that your team has the capacity to take on the project, your next step is to assign tasks to the right employees based on their workload and skillset. An efficient way to do this is to set up the new project in Harvest and add each team member’s tasks so they can track work hours spent on each one.
When assigning tasks, be sure to identify, track, and share all dependencies with your team so they know what they need to do and when they need to do it. Make sure they know which tasks include subtasks, and which tasks can’t be completed before another item is finished to avoid bottlenecking and keep track of the larger goal.
It’s also important to involve your entire team in the task delegation process. Ask them if they’re comfortable with the workload and due dates before finalizing the plan so they don’t feel like you’re putting unnecessary burdens on them.
Step 4: Monitor project progress
As your well-planned strategy moves forward, keep track of your team’s performance on a regular basis — and don’t be afraid to adapt when needed. For example, if you notice an employee’s utilization rate is creeping above 80%, you can flag the issue and reassign the task before burnout becomes a possibility.
Checking in on your team members can be done through:
Weekly 1:1 meetings
Daily stand-ups and check-ins
Additionally, make sure to provide constructive feedback after the project is completed. Praise their good work, and highlight areas they can improve upon to optimize the next project.
Additional tips for effective workload management
As good as your new workload management strategy may be, you’ll inevitably run into a few hiccups along the way. Here’s how to handle them.
Help with task management
A recent study from Northwestern University found that employees are more likely to complete simple tasks that feel urgent before higher priority tasks when experiencing a heavy workload.
To help your team understand how to prioritize tasks in the project schedule, teach them how they can accomplish all the tasks on their plate in a smarter way. Take a look at our recent article on proven time management strategies for more tips.
Accept different work styles
Everyone works differently — and recognizing that is key to managing your team’s workload.
One employee might choose to work in time blocks, while another could prefer to tackle the difficult tasks in the morning and free their afternoons up for emails and meetings. Be sure to work around what works best for each team member and support their process.
Support your team
Expanding project scopes and tight deadlines can sometimes result in a heavy workload, and despite your team’s ability to stay productive, it’s your job to ensure their success. Give them the time they need to get the job done by preventing extra tasks and unnecessary meetings that could get in their way.
You can also help by identifying unachievable timelines and making changes to those timelines; or by providing additional resources they may need along the way to complete the project.
Track hours spent on tasks
Keep an eye on the hours spent on each project so you can understand burnout rates and estimated vs. real time. Doing so will help you plan more efficiently for your next project. Knowing how long your team is actually working on specific tasks will inform your team workload management process and help you avoid scheduling conflicts in the future.
The good news? Time tracking is easy with Harvest. Get started with a free trial today.