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Sailing Through An Overwhelming Team Workload

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

These last couple of months have been a little manic at Virtual Miss Friday, we've been introducing new clients, making shifts inside the organisation structure of the team, putting a host of new processes and procedures in place and taking on some larger scale projects which has meant things haven't always been smooth sailing - so how do we handle times like these when everything gets a bit too much? Read on and I'll tell you.

It happens to the best of us...

First of all, no matter how organised a company or business appears to be on the outside, there's always going to be variables on the inside.

Things such as:

  • Team members coming and going.
  • Projects starting, progressing and ending.
  • Clients going MIA or suddenly needing more support.
  • New clients coming on board.
  • Or generally work and tasks taking longer than estimated or anticipated.
  • Not to mention holidays, sickness and any other kind of unexpected or expected absence. 

A cocktail of variables such as these on top of the normal daily workload can upset the "ebb and flow" of any business no matter how well organised it is, or how established it is. Storms can occasionally brew on the calmest of waters.

For the last couple of months we've been ebbing and flowing at Virtual Miss Friday, some members on my team have been coming into new roles and learning new skills, others have taken on a higher workload and we've had the privilege of working on some great, albeit fairly large projects, and I've put the following in place to help at times like these which hopefully can help alleviate stress and pressure on the team or individuals and get the work done in as balanced a manner as possible.

Structuring the team.

I have a very specific structure to my team, and depending on the size you will need to structure your business and the people within it accordingly.

  • There's Me...
Then 3 team leaders who I primarily work with directly.

  • An Administrative team leader
  • A Marketing team leader
  • A Creative team leader

Then each team leader heads their own teams of individuals who have a variety of skills to match the tasks that are being processed.

This is the core structure for the business.

Starting at the Stern.

The stern of the business is the team and the amazing people you'll work with to process the tasks and keep the wheels turning and the cogs running smoothly. It's important you communicate with your team to ensure they know when their work is due and what to do if they can't meet the due dates.

For example:

"When a task is assigned there will be a due date attached to it, sometimes the due date will be very far in advance and sometimes ASAP, for example the same day if it's early enough - if the due date is not on the ticket, please assume we need a (no longer than) 48 hour turn around period (or 2 business days) Monday to Friday.

If your workload means that there will be tasks outstanding on your list outside of the due date or 48 hour turn around period then you need to notify the team leader immediately to help you manage the workload."

This just helps to provide a guideline and manage expectations.

Moving to the deck.

Then it's "all hands on deck" with the team leader, the one who regulates the tasks and the work. You can support your team leader by providing instructions to them on how to handle an overwhelmed team member or busy workload.

For example:

1 - Look at your team member's task list.
2 - Assess if any tasks that have been delegated by the team leader could be done by another team member who's schedule is more open/available. In such an instance, the first thing to do is re-delegate and then they can complete those tasks either themselves (team leader) or via another team member.
3 - If any work has been delegated to the team member directly by a 3rd party (such as another team leader for example, or in many cases this will be me!) you'll need to contact those people directly to see if there's any flexibility in their due dates or tasks.

"Urgent Notice - [name of team member] is currently experiencing a high workload and we're looking to prioritise tasks, can you let me know of any urgent or concrete deadlines that must be met, and also could you update or let me know of any tasks that could have the due date extended?"

You would wait for the person to respond with their feedback so you can help the team member with prioritising their work.

And finally the bow.

If after this exercise any due dates, or turn around periods are going to be missed, then I would suggest that you must be informed immediately to assist with the delegation and processing in order to handle the workload, or inform clients accordingly of any changes that would need to be made to their schedule - usually it won't come to that, but it all depends on the situation and the manpower you have accessible to you.

Don't worry if on occasion this happens, it's bound to, but with these measures in place you should be able to work through the bumps and come out on the other side just fine! 

Don't forget to thank your team for all their hard work and cooperation :-)

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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