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It is quite easy to spot problems with employee motivation—they waste too much time on small talk and unproductive activities. On the other hand, manager and employee stress due to an overload of work is not always as noticeable.

How to Spot the Need for Workload Management

An overloaded employee focus their assigned hours mainly on work, they minimize distraction, and they take normal acceptable breaks—yet they still cannot accomplish their assignments in a timely manner. The impact of being overburdened for long periods of time is an increase in employee stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed. This leads to the individual becoming less engaged in what they need to accomplish and possibly a display of negative attitude toward their surroundings. The result can also be less success in business projects.

The first managerial thought that comes to mind is that they should manage their time better. This would lead to better workload management, less employee stress, and more employee motivation. But, before you sign them up to take a time management class, let’s consider some other alternatives.

Signs an Employee Needs Better Workload Management

Here are some red flags. Some are simply facts; others could be a sense you have of how things are going for your employees.

• Employee is unable to show significant progress on any of the items they’re responsible for within reasonable time frame
• Does not immediately remember the status of the top three initiatives/projects under their supervision
• Paperwork piles up around them at an increasing rate
• Begins to feel like they cannot keep up with the pace
• Gets frustrated or argumentative when anything is added to his/her to-do list
• Stops asking clarifying questions—they don’t feel like they can do anything about it anyway.
• Stops taking care of themselves
• Looks/feels tired on a continual basis

It is important to understand that the more behavioral signals you observe, the stronger the indication that it’s time to review and make adjustments to handling the workload. This is key to how to motivate employees.

What is the Personal Story?

Some of these red flags are a good enough reason on their own to touch base with an employee one on one and to ask some clarifying questions about employee motivation. Something may be going on in their personal life that affects their productivity. Acknowledging what they go through, while motivating them to focus on the bigger picture of their success in business, may bring some change in their attitude, and eventually in their results and in ability to contribute to the workplace.

And at the same time, if you uncover a temporary personal issue for the employee stress, you may want to divert some of the workload to another employee. Being perceived as a fair employer with workload management buys you loyalty points.

What if this is a bigger issue?

It’s important to distinguish between having a temporary issue that requires some over time from an ongoing issue where employee motivation is constantly stifled. Rises and dips in incoming work volume is normal. Sometimes it could be more hectic than other times, and as a result, your team may need to put in some extra effort here and there.

With that being said, when your employees’ plate is time and again overflowing, it’s time for an effective leader to ask important questions about how to motivate employees:

• Do I acknowledge and praise their effort to ensure they stay engaged?
• Do I compensate them appropriately, so they will not take a hike?
• Do I have an effective distribution of the workload?
• Is it time to expand my resources and hire additional P/T or F/T employee?

If you are having a challenge with workload management or you’re noticing a lot of employee stress and lack of employee motivation, partner with an expert to find the most effective ways to manage your workforce. When it comes to success in business, some professional guidance goes a long way.

Tmima Grinvald is a Certified Professional Business Coach at The Round Well Coaching and Leadership Development providing services that include business team coaching, executive business coaching, small business consulting, and leadership development.

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