When You Have to Give Them ‘One More Thing’

Posted on January 14, 2013.

Guest post By Maureen Gorman, Editor at Progressive Business Publications

Over the last few years, many companies have become leaner, using the mantra: “Do more with less.” Unfortunately, that often means employees who already have full workloads need to keep taking on more. As a manager, how can you help staffers handle additional tasks without burning out?

Here are five strategies to ease the pain:

1.     Cut back on nonessential work

Before giving employees more work, look at the tasks they’re already doing.

Are there ways to streamline some of their work – or do away with nonessential tasks?

One way to find out: Ask staffers what wastes their time.

Chances are they’ll have some good ideas – from shortening meetings to reducing unnecessary paperwork.

That’ll open up time for them do take on more critical tasks.

2.     Ask for their preferences

Of course, employees will probably still end up busier. But they’ll be less likely to mind if they’re doing work they like.

That’s why it’s a good idea to get some input before assigning tasks. Ask employees to send you a list of their top three favorite tasks.

Then try to give them the work they’ve chosen.

Employees will be less likely to complain because they’ve been given some input. Plus, they’ll feel less stressed about doing their favorite tasks, and will likely get it done more quickly and easily.

Of course, some tasks are going to be more popular than others.

That’s why it’s important to try to keep things fair.

If someone feels they got stuck with a less desirable job, mix it up and give them first choice next time.

You can even let them talk among themselves about how to divide the jobs evenly.

3.     Pitch in

Most managers are already overloaded as well. But pitching in to help employees is almost always worth the time it takes.

Even small efforts will be appreciated. It makes employees feel they’re not on their own – and shows that everyone’s working harder.

4.     Give ‘Do Not Disturb’ time

Most people could get a lot more done if they didn’t have to stop to handle so many interruptions.

That’s why you may want to consider using a “Do Not Disturb” policy.

When someone has a critical project to complete, authorize “Do Not Disturb” time. That means the employee can turn off the phone and tell co-workers not to interrupt them for a certain time period.

Ask staffers to let you know if they feel this time would benefit them.

Tip: Be sure to encourage them to turn off email notifications – one of the most common interruptions.

5.     Share information

If employees have taken on additional duties due to layoffs or expansions, they need to see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Let them know how the company’s doing overall, and when they’ll expect to shoulder a normal workload again.

Employees may not be happy about doing extra work temporarily. But they’ll be more likely to understand it if they can see the big picture.

About the Author: Editor with Progressive Business Publications, Maureen Gorman has more than 10 years of business writing experience.  Learn more about PBP’s popular internship program by visiting Progressive Business Publications Internships.