Balancing a Project Teams Workload
It’s always important to balance a project team’s workload, and especially so during times when resources take vacations and miss work. There’s a fine balance to be had between mixing a team to do lists and ensuring that the workload is equal and fair for everyone. Managing the project workload is one of the most critical parts of a manager’s job, in particular to get that balance right. Project teams look for clarity to what they should be doing and when.
Workload management is the process of assigning tasks 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 and who on the team is supposed to be working on those tasks.
Workload management is made easier when a plan is developed, fortunately, there’s also a simple 5-step approach to ensuring the team stays true to the workload plan, one that makes it easy to manage the workload of the team without looking like micro-managing is occurring.
Workload planning is a way to keep teams busy and productive. It’s a strategic way to distribute the work throughout the 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, it is critical to know resources and the business priorities to map teams against needs, which is a constantly reviewed and adjustable process. Having resource management software that identifies the team’s availability and hours, then analyse the work being done is beneficial. Use this data to create a workload plan to optimize productivity and balance workload across the entire team. Using a project management software equipped with workload management tools help with this process.
The workload management plan is not etched in stone and must be reviewed and revised continuously as the project moves forward and changes. Therefore, actively manage workload during the project execution, which leads to the following five-step workload management process.
As a project manager starting to manage workload from scratch 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 to say that the guys aren’t keeping on top of their work and are behind schedule or have missed a deadline.
Remember, managing what is known is the only way possible. In a matrix structure, there might be some people who are only available to work on tasks for a portion of their week, so be sure to get clarity on that.
Look for team members who are over allocated. That just means that they have been given more work than they can do in the time available. A good rule for work management is that employees 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 to maximize productivity; it’s better to fill people’s time for, say 6 hours per day, then 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.
Using resource reports and work management dashboards for employees assists with resources who don’t have enough work to do. Keep the team motivated by ensuring they have meaningful tasks to fill the day.
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. Time management systems will help in understanding if they are working on tasks that are deemed to be priority.
Clues can be picked up about whether employees are 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 professional judgement comes in: are they genuinely too busy or just working on the wrong tasks? Or incredibly unproductive?
A workload tracker will provide the information needed to help answer these questions. The better strengths and work patterns of the team are known, the easier it will be to figure out how to improve productivity and interpret what the timesheet system is advising.
A team’s workload can be managed better if it is known when they are going to be around. Talk to them about upcoming holidays and include those in the workload planning as not to assign them work while they are away. Equally, check in with the team to make sure knowledge of their skills is up to date. Employees may be able to work on more projects than is expected if they have developed new skills.
Finally, put those over and under allocations right, commence with the employees 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.
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 the next financial years projects.
When changing an assignment in the resource planning system, don’t forget to speak to the people involved first! That’s one of the keyways to make sure that the team is kept happy. Explain by 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 workload planning, they may end up with even better assignments.
Workload management should be a priority for project managers because it overlaps with other important project management processes such as capacity planning, task management and project scheduling. Managing the team’s workload can be overwhelming, especially in big projects, use the workload management software to help keep track of all the employees.
Ideally, workload management software should allow with the assignment of tasks to employees and have tools to visualize project timeline such as a calendar view, Gantt charts or Kanban boards. Additionally, using tracking, work management and resource management features.
Resource management software makes the workload management process easy, especially when it’s integrated into your project management solution. Updating workload plan automatically updates the resource reports to quickly see who has time to take on additional tasks. Let us know your approach to workload balance when managing projects, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.