There’s a fine balance to be had between meddling in your team’s to-do lists and ensuring that the workload is equal and fair for everyone. One of the most critical parts of a manager’s job is to get that balance right. Project teams look to you to clarify what they should be doing and when. But they don’t want you hovering over their shoulder as they tick off every task.
Workload planning is a way to keep the team working while monitoring their progress over the course of the project. It provides a framework of what tasks need to be done, who on the team is supposed to be working on those tasks and then comparing the actual workload to the estimate for the project at this point in its life cycle.
There’s also a simple 5-step approach to ensuring your team stays true to the workload plan, one that makes it easy for you to manage the workload of the team without looking like you are micro-managing.
But first, let’s go a little deeper into workload planning.
Workload planning is a way to keep your teams busy and productive. It’s a strategic way to distribute the work throughout your team. This boosts performance. Planning workload isn’t only about getting the job done, but reducing team stress, burnout and errors.
For a workload plan, you must first know your resources and the business priorities to map teams against needs, which is a constantly reviewed and adjustable process. You should have a resource management software that identifies the team’s availability and hours, then analyze the work being done and use this data to plan for the future to optimize efficiency and balance workload across your entire team.
The workload plan is not etched in stone and must be reviewed and revised continuously as the project moves forward and changes. Therefore, you need to actively manage workload during the project execution, which brings us to the following five-step process.
1. Review Your Team’s Current Workload
If you are starting from scratch then you need to start by reviewing what’s currently going on. Perhaps this has been initiated by someone in the team saying they have too much work to do, or perhaps another team manager has called you to say that your guys aren’t keeping on top of their work and have missed a deadline for him.
Remember, you can only manage what you know. In a matrix structure, you might have some people who are only available to work on your tasks for a portion of their week, so be sure to get clarity on that. These days, “Who is in my team?” is definitely not a stupid question!
The fastest way to find the answer is to use resource management reports from your project management system to show you who is working on which tasks. In ProjectManager.com you’ll find that on the Workload tab.
ProjectManager.com has workload and resource management tools. These tools let you see the number of assigned work hours to each team member. The box is green if the team member has a good number of hours; it’s orange if they are over or under assigned. In that very same view, you can click the box and instantly reassign tasks to adjust workload. This adjustment is automatically reflected in any project plans on the Gantt chart or elsewhere.
2. Identify Over Allocated Staff
Look for people on the team who are over allocated. That just means that they have been given more work than they can actually do in the time available.
A good rule is that people should be allocated to specific tasks only 80% of their time. The remaining 20% will be for answering phone calls, attending team meetings, dealing with the customer who calls with an urgent problem and so on.
The 20% should be spread out across the week; it’s better to fill people’s time for, say 6 hours per day, than give them every Friday with nothing to do apart from catch up on the things they weren’t able to finish earlier in the week.
3. Identify Under Allocated Staff
You are also looking at your resource reports and dashboards for people who don’t have enough work to do. Keep your team motivated by ensuring they have meaningful tasks to fill the day.
In reality, your team members will always look busy. They will find things to work on, perhaps taking on tasks of their own accord or helping out one of their colleagues. Your time management system will help you understand if they are working on tasks that you deem to be their priority.
You can also pick up clues about whether your team is over or under allocated from them directly. They may ask for more work or point out that they can’t take on another assignment. This is where your professional judgement comes in: are they genuinely too busy or just working on the wrong tasks? Or incredibly unproductive? The better you know the strengths and work patterns of your team the easier it will be to interpret what your timesheet system is telling you.
4. Account for Skills and Absences
You can manage your team’s workload better if you know when they are going to be around. Talk to them about upcoming holidays and include those in your planning so you don’t assign them work while they are away.
Equally, check in with your team to make sure your knowledge of their skills is up-to-date. They may be able to work on more projects than you expected if they have developed new skills.
If you don’t have the skills you need in the team you may have to go out and get them. This video guide by Jennifer Bridges explains how to build a team with the right skills.
5. Adjust Your Assignments
Finally, you’ve got to put those over and under allocations right. Start with the people who have too much work assigned to them. Split up the big tasks into smaller chunks and assign someone else to help them out. Or make the task stretch over a longer period so they have fewer hours to work on it each day.
You could also move some of their work to another member of the team who doesn’t have enough to do. Boost someone’s workload by asking them to take on another project, develop their skills or involve them in planning for next year.
If you are going to change an assignment in your resource planning system, don’t forget to speak to the people involved first! That’s one of the key ways to make sure that you are keeping your team happy. You can explain that you are shifting resource requirements around to balance out the work and that it is not a reflection on their performance. In fact, as a result of your workload planning they may end up with even better assignments.
Things can become additionally complicated when you’re onboarding employees into your remote work software, so be sure everyone is kept informed on the changes you’re making.
Using ProjectManager.com to Manage Workload
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning software that gives you a number of tools to balance the workload across your team. With Gantt charts, you can map out all of your tasks in phases and assign them to team members. The assignee’s name appears next to the task so you can view who is working on what at what time. And since it’s an online Gantt chart, all the data is updated in real time, and the entire team gets updated on their new tasks in an instant.
You can assign and reassign work in more views than just the Gantt, however. Our task list and kanban view gives you just as much power when it comes to managing your projects and teams. Simply click on a task and choose which team members you want assigned to it. You can add a whole number of team members, or just yourself if you need to. Team members are even organized by department so you can quickly identify the best person for the job.
This blog was updated November 2019.
Resource management software makes this whole process easy, especially when it’s integrated into your project management solution. Updating your plan automatically updates the resource reports in ProjectManager.com so you quickly see who has time to take on additional tasks. Start your free trial today.