“I have got too much work and not enough time to do it all.” That is a statement we have all muttered to ourselves at some point in our careers.
Toward the end of 2016, a study by Wrike came out stating nearly six in 10 employees feel their workloads have gone up. A further fifth reported that work demands had increased "significantly."
However, that's not all, 47% of respondents across various sectors stated they work longer hours to get the job done than they had a year ago. A third of managers also confirmed they expect employees to put in this extra time and take fewer breaks to meet the demands of their growing task lists.
With this cultural shift happening before our eyes, the size of our workloads is not going anywhere and department budgets are not growing, managers in call centers are struggling to get the work done without staff burnout, hiring more employees or losing efficiency.
Here are six strategies for how to manage a heavy workload and cope with the extra items on your to-do list as well as your teams:
1. Look For Different Ways To Get The Job Done
To cope with the extra workload, call center managers need to think outside the box. Simply asking your agents to "turn up the crank" and work faster and harder won't solve your problems. Chances are they are already doing their best to turn out quality work as quickly as possible.
To get through the pile of work, you and your team need to find more efficient ways to get the job done.
Schedule in a brainstorming session with your agents and find the means to simplify processes or eliminate certain tasks altogether.
By addressing this as a team, you will get a variety of ideas and foster an environment that shows you value their input.
2. Prioritize and Set Achievable Deadlines
One item all managers are guilty of is adding instead of helping to reduce employee workloads. If you and your team are feeling overwhelmed, it's time to take a step back and see what is necessary and what can afford to be culled from the to-do list.
Look at the team's individual responsibilities, your team's collective obligations and goals and assess which activities or tasks should be prioritized. Not all tasks deserve the same importance and not everything has to be turned in yesterday. Setting priorities and realistic deadlines help your team focus on what really matters.
3. Assess Yourself
Self-reflection and awareness are difficult to master but are necessary skills for any manager. As you develop strategies to help your agents cope with a heavy workload, you need to set aside time to assess if you are making work more difficult. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you micromanage your staff?
- Are you indecisive?
- Do you fail to follow up on issues that are brought to your attention?
- What kind of atmosphere do you create in the call center?
While it's never easy to admit our faults, when times are tough, effective leaders need to suck it up and work on bettering themselves to improve their team's output.
4. Practice Being a Good Communicator
There's nothing worse than working for a dictator who refuses to acknowledge there is a problem.
While it's not always possible to prevent the amount of work landing on employees desks, it can help their performance if they know you care and understand the difficulties they are facing.
It's important that your staff feel like they can trust you with their grievances and know that you will take into consideration what they have to say.
Call center managers can practice being good communicators by keeping their agents informed on any updates, showing employees that you have a plan to help them meet their targets and including them as much as possible in the decision-making process.
5. Take it One Chunk at a Time
A simple way to break down a hectic workload is to take it one small chunk at a time. Instead of focusing on the bigger picture, reduce your scope and break it apart into simple and actionable to-do's that will lead your team to reach their goals.
Schedule a meeting with your team and decide on three goals to focus on for that week. Once decided, ask each person to identify what steps they'll need to take in order to achieve that goal. By dissecting a big project, your team will feel more focused, and their task lists will become more manageable.
6. Take Breaks
Encourage your employees to take breaks from their work. Yes, you read that right. You are only shooting yourself in the foot if you think it is more effective to work straight through the day. A study of office workers and managers by Staples found 66 percent of employees do not take a break other than lunch.
It's been scientifically proven that taking breaks from work keeps us from getting bored, helps us remember information and allow us to reevaluate our goals. Encourage your call center agents to take a stroll which can contribute to boosting creative thought, grab a cup coffee, meditate or even a 10-minute workout.
So there you have it, six strategies on how to manage a heavy workload in your call center. From becoming more efficient to assessing ourselves and encouraging regular breaks, there's something on this list every manager can implement to increase productivity and reduce stress in the frantic environment that defines the call center industry.