Volume of Work Gets Too Heavy

By Chuck Martin

Business people need to be more vigilant to ensure that the sheer volume of work doesn’t get ahead of them.  

Indications are that it is getting close to that time.

The majority of senior executives and managers say the business workload in their department or organization is too heavy, based on a global survey by NFI Research.

Three-quarters of them consider their personal workload to be too heavy, with a quarter saying it is significantly too heavy.

And it makes no difference what size companies people work at, since about the same percentages at all sizes of companies agree their workload is too heavy.

"The workload is extremely heavy and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight," said one survey respondent. "With the trimming of layers of personnel and trying to hold back costs and stay competitive, it has an extreme impact on the workload for all levels of personnel. And heaven forbid if you go on vacation, because there isn’t anyone to do the work while you are gone, and I consider it punishment when I return to the office as the work is piled and not completed."

There are several reasons for such heavy workloads, such as downsizing of the past, where the job went away but the work stayed for those left behind.

Organizational belt-tightening and increased use of technology are others.

"Cost-cutting has led to taking shortcuts that sometimes are counterproductive," said a respondent. Ben Franklin said it better: "Haste makes waste."

In some ways, technology has actually added to the workload by making anyone available anytime.

"With technology, the workload is no longer an eight-hour day, as we check in regularly and are making international calls outside of normal business hours," said one survey respondent.

Said another: "The unfortunate side effect of technology is that we’re very strapped with information overload and real-time communication expectations. This has only added to an already very heavy workload for senior executives."

"I feel technology has helped us," said another. "However, now there is too much information on a daily basis. Staying focused and simplifying should be the answer."

Technology also can help increase productivity to make individuals more efficient.

"I am accomplishing substantially more work today than in the past but doing it in the same amount of time," said one manager. "I have found e-mail, voice mail and computer software to be tools that increase my productivity and, in the end, lighten my workload."

One of the solutions to the workload dilemma is to at least try to stagger it. Realistically, people cannot run at maximum speed all the time.

"The integrity and quality of work is affected as employees are trying to keep up with the volume," said one respondent. "This has a negative long-term effect on morale and productivity."

"As a manager, I find that being flexible and accommodating with my team during down times means they reward me with extra hours and effort during our busiest periods," said another.

Technology has provided the ability to do more with less, in less time, almost anytime or anywhere.

Perhaps this has given people the ability to do more than they should, wearing themselves down, thus becoming ineffective.

Business leaders should look to find ways to periodically scale back the work for those people before they burn out.

Chuck Martin is a best-selling business book author, his latest being , Tough Management (McGraw-Hill, 2005), the business fable "Coffee at Luna’s" and the soon-to-be published "Smarts." He lectures around the world and can be reached at chuck@nfiresearch.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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