Job Doc

I’m part of a small team and we have a huge workload. What can I do to make sure I keep up with it? Elaine Varelas examines

Many organizations are struggling with the balance of both fewer employees and increased demands. Elaine Varelas examines what kinds of solutions could assist an overworked team and how a busy organization could help streamline responsibilities.

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Q: My team at work is small and we handle a lot of responsibilities. Recently, it’s become extremely busy and it’s hard to keep up with all of my work. What can I do to make sure I make deadlines while also keeping up with my responsibilities to the team?

A: While organizations are talking a lot about needing to hire more people, current employees are feeling the crunch of being stretched thin and taking on additional responsibilities. You haven’t mentioned some details which are key to finding a solution to your problem. Is your small team understaffed? Is the team over utilized throughout the company? Is this increased workload something new or is this a standard level of work for your job? In any case, I encourage you to meet with both your manager and teammates to see if there are ways to do an analysis of the work that needs to be done. This analysis should examine the team’s work streams, and you and your colleagues should prepare some questions. Some things to consider could include asking about duplication of work and the ability to automate some of your processes.

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One of the hardest areas that employees struggle with is meeting the multiple work demands others are giving them to do. No one has clear visibility into the deluge of work and individuals outside the team may not know when there is a huge increase in volume and demands, as well as the levels of urgency. For example, if your small team has always been able to respond to an inquiry (be it from a customer or internally) within 24 hours, you, your team, and your manager may need to consider developing a new service level agreement (SLA) to increase that time of response to 48 hours. Of course, you’ll need to get management support to make those changes and having your manager and other managers understand the amount of work your small team is handling will be vital to helping them understand if they need to make some adjustments.

In addition to altering any SLAs, your manager may look into investing in technology or people to support the increased workload. For technology, I recommend doing your own research as well to see what kinds of applications may be suitable for your team. Consider bringing in your IT department to help you identify the types of technology that can help you. Develop a list of what you need, what you do, and what you’d like not to do, and they can do some research. Having guidance from IT can also ensure that you don’t identify something that doesn’t speak to the rest of the organization. It is important that your team and your manager examine all the options available to you that will be both efficient for your team and practical to learn. Also, you’ll have to keep in mind any pricing options depending on your budget. If you’re a smaller team in a smaller company, you may not have the budget to implement outside technologies.

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As for hiring additional people to help, it may be good for you and your team to sit down and draft out what the team is responsible for on a daily basis. Do you consistently have important projects in your pipeline? What does a day look like for your team? What is expected for your team daily, weekly, and monthly? Gathering as many details as possible will be vital for your manager, as well as the organization. How long each activity takes is often underestimated by people who don’t do the work, so add timing to the details. Make sure you highlight what skills your team will need to keep up with your workload and what tasks an additional person may be able to take on with some training.

In the end, your question really involves two areas: are you overworked and organized, or overworked and disorganized? If it’s the latter, books about team organization are abound, and these can help you keep your team organized during this busy working period. Some ways to keep your team organized could include developing a color-coded system internally or an integrated use of your calendars across the team. Find a method that works for you, and make sure you talk to your colleagues. See if they can give you insights into what they use, how they keep organized, and what sorts of methods they’ve come up with to keep on top of their responsibilities. If there is a technology already in place that works for some people on your team, try those solutions for yourself. Trying different methodologies and seeing what works and what doesn’t will only benefit you, and while some may work for others, it’s important to find what will suit your situation best. Some people like their handwritten lists, some have their tasks jotted down in their phone or computer. The goal is to find out what makes you effective and efficient to complete the work that needs to be done. Show that it’s the work that needs help, not your organizational skills. Hone your ability to stay organized, and work with your team to find some suitable solutions to your busy workload.

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