One of the main causes of stress is a demanding job. Maybe your workload is too heavy or perhaps your deadlines are too tight. In either case, this can impact your professional and personal life in multiple ways. In this guide to coping with stress at work, we’ll walk you through some ways you can prevent your own burnout and support your team deal with stress.
The Effects of a Heavy Workload
It’s easy to dismiss work stress as something you just need to deal with. In reality, it can have serious consequences if you allow it to continue unchecked.
- Performance — When you’re stressed, you feel tired and you find it more difficult to focus. This means your performance suffers. It may take you longer to finish work or the work you produce may be lower quality.
- Mistakes — Exhaustion also makes it harder to pay attention to detail. There’s a higher chance you’ll submit work with mistakes. In the best case scenario, you’ll need to redo the work. In the worst case, your company may look unprofessional in front of a client or, in cases where there’s a physical component to the work, you could suffer an accident.
- Health — Burnout can have serious, sometimes long-term, impacts on your health. Conditions related to stress include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
- Morale — Stress leads to demotivation. Employees who are stressed often stop enjoying their jobs and, as a result, may put less effort into their work. Some even end up searching for new opportunities that have lower workloads or more flexibility.
- Higher risk of conflict — Stressed employees are more likely to snap at each other. It could be as simple as a coworker asks you to help with another task. If you already feel overworked, you may lash out without thinking. This ruins workplace relationships (making it more difficult to work together) and creates a negative work environment.
- Poor communication — It is also more difficult for employees to communicate effectively when they’re stressed. Minor issues can explode into major disagreements; a small annoying habit of a coworker can become massively frustrating.
How to Prevent Professional Burnout
The first thing to consider is how you can take back control and prevent your own professional burnout.
Workload Management Strategies
One thing you can do is create a strategy to manage your workload. This starts with figuring out your priorities. It can be tempting to begin with the work that most appeals to you, but this will often mean you have limited time left for the most urgent tasks. As a result, you may end up working more hours and work may extend into your personal time (even sleep).
Whatever you do, never try to multitask. Many people think they are good at multitasking, but it is scientifically proven that multitasking is impossible for almost everyone, almost all of the time.
How to Reduce Workload Stress
If the above is insufficient, you need to take a few extra steps to reduce stress.
- Exercise — Physical exercise is a great way to manage stress. Choose an activity you enjoy (perhaps something you can do in the office during your lunch break).
- Pick up a hobby — Don’t allow work to become the central focus of your life. Make sure you have time every day to pursue a personal passion. You may like to experiment with a few new hobbies until you find one that’s right for you.
- Take time off — Schedule at least a few days off work. Even a staycation can be effective at helping you relieve stress. Make sure you steer clear of all work-related tasks during your break.
- Include breaks in your calendar — There’s no need to wait for your vacation (or staycation) to rest. In fact, it’s important to relax at intervals throughout the day to stay motivated. Add time for breaks to your calendar and make sure you stick to them.
Ways to Reduce Your Workload
Another option is to reduce your workload. If you’re in control of your workload, this shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. For instance, you could set work hours. Resist from checking your email and other work-related apps outside this time period.
If you’re able to work from home, embrace the opportunity. This will also help you feel like you’re working less, as you’ll eliminate your commute. Just make sure you don’t allow yourself to become distracted — or you’ll find every task ends up taking twice as long.
If, after this, you find your workload is still too high, refuse to take on any more responsibilities. Plus, look at what you already have on your plate and decide if someone else could do it — either someone at your company or a professional you can outsource.
Approaching Your Employer
Finally, if you’re not the boss at your company, tell your employer that your workload is too high. Explain that you’re exhausted and that this is impacting your performance. There’s a good chance you’ll find that your employer is sympathetic. Together, you can strategize how to create a more manageable workload.
Ways Leaders Can Help Employees Manage Their Workload
As a business leader, it’s up to you to encourage employees to avoid burnout by managing their workloads for them.
How to Tell If an Employee’s Workload Is Too High
The best thing you can do is be ready to listen to your employees. Make sure you’re approachable and people know that they can come to you if they have any problems with their workload. Otherwise, they may be afraid of retribution if they voice any concerns.
What to Do When Employees Are Feeling Overwhelmed
Once you’ve identified which employees are struggling with a heavy workload, you need to do something about it. One thing you can do is set longer deadlines. This means figuring out what tasks you’re going to have in the coming months and allocating the work ahead of time. Your employees will then be able to create a more balanced schedule.
Even better, set deadlines slightly earlier than you need the work. This will mean you have time for any revisions and if the task takes longer than expected, there will be no rush to finish the work.
Also request employee feedback. As well as directly asking about workloads, discuss what employees think of various processes. What works well for you (or what you expect to work well) may be ineffective for someone else. When you avoid micromanaging and instead allow employees to do things their own way, workloads often feel lighter.
Finally, bring some fun to your workplace. Even if you have a remote team, you can find ways to socialize. Hold constructive workshops, practice team building, or have a happy hour at the end of the week.
How to Reduce the Workload of Your Employees
Another thing to do is reduce workloads wherever possible. Some employees may have tasks assigned to them that someone less overworked could do instead. Alternatively, look into setting up automation for things like moving data, reporting, CRM tasks, and more.
Team Workload Management Tools
Tools can help with just about anything — including workload management. The following workload management tools are excellent for keeping a team productive.
Use Slack as a hangout spot for everyone at your company. You can stay in touch about the progress of projects, share files, and set reminders. Plus, you can create channels for specific purposes, including socialization.
It’s useful to see how much time team members are spending on different tasks. With Clockify, you can track all your team members in one place. This will also give you a better idea of how long a similar project in the future will take.
A top collaboration tool for businesses of all types is Asana. It’s highly customizable, allowing you to set up the tool in a way that best suits your team’s needs. Whatever layout you choose, you’ll find it easy to use. Asana is an ideal way for keeping projects (and all their individual components) organized.
How to Deal with Under-Performers
Some of your team may be overworked because they’re pulling all the weight. This can be the case if you have some under-performers at your company. There are a few ways to deal with this problem.
1. Consider the Reasons for Underperformance
Before talking to an employee, ask yourself why the person may be underperforming. Reasons range from unclear expectations and the need for more training to factors unrelated to work.
2. Discuss the Issue
The key word here is “discuss.” You may make the situation worse if you confront an employee or if you ask passive-aggressive questions. Instead, you need to demonstrate how the employee is underperforming with specific examples. Make it clear what you expect and ask the employee what you can do to help.
3. Create an Action Plan
Once you better understand the issue, you can decide what action to take next. This could include providing the employee with training, helping your team stay more motivated, or giving the employee a chance to deal with any underlying personal problems. This last option is especially important if the person has been at your company a long time and is a valuable team member.
4. Address Underperformance Early
As soon as you notice any employee is underperforming, address the issue. If you leave the problem to see how it progresses, you’re being unfair to your other employees — not to mention that you’re putting your business at risk.
Using a Virtual Assistant to Reduce Workloads
If you take a look at your schedule (or at those of your employees), you’ll probably notice that a large amount of work is administrative. These tasks don’t require your expertise — they’re only adding to your workload and increasing your stress. An ideal solution is to delegate these activities to a virtual assistant.
A virtual administrative assistant from MYVA360 can take on all the tasks you lack the time to do yourself, such as answering phone calls, preparing documents, making travel arrangements, and creating expense reports. You can receive a VA for just yourself or for your entire team.
When you choose MYVA360, we’ll match you with the right person for your needs — and if your workload ever becomes extra heavy, we’ll give you an extra assistant at no additional charge. Contact us to get started.