We have all had days in our professional careers where we felt we had too much work and not enough time in the day to finish it all.
Toward the end of 2016, a study by Wrike came out stating nearly 6 in 10 employees feel their workloads have gone up. Further, a fifth reported they felt 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.
So, how do you effectively manage a heavy workload?
Here are six strategies for managing a heavy workload and tackling the extra items on your to-do list:
1. Look At How To Reduce Workload Of Employees
To cope with the extra workload, call center managers need to be creative.
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.
When dealing with an excessive workload, you and your team need to find more efficient ways to get the job done. Scheduling a brainstorming session with your agents is a great place to start and will give you brownie points with them for exercising your listening skills. Use your workforce to find creative ways to simplify processes or eliminate certain tasks.
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 employees to reduce 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 cull from the to-do list.
Look at the team's individual responsibilities, your team's collective obligations and goals and assess prioritizing activities or tasks. Not all tasks deserve the same importance, and not everything has to be turned in yesterday. Setting priorities and realistic deadlines helps your team focus on what really matters.
Ensure that the goals are realistic and achievable. When done badly, goals have the ability to be destructive to agents’ morale and productivity. According to Srikant M. Datar, the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Accounting at Harvard University and contributor to the Goal Setting module of Harvard ManageMentor, when goals are done poorly, they “do not achieve the goal of motivating employees and helping them achieve better performance as they were designed to do.”
3. Assess Yourself
Self-reflection and awareness are difficult to master but are necessary skills for any manager. As you develop strategies on how to manage a high 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 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 leadership 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.
Contact center managers can practice being excellent 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. Incorporating empathy for the agent experience into the way communications are handled will only further their trust in the company.
5. Take It One Chunk At A Time
A simple way to break down a heavy workload is to take it one small chunk at a time. Instead of focusing on the bigger picture, reduce your scope and break it down into simple and actionable to-do's that will lead your team to reach their goals.
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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 must take in order to achieve that goal. By dissecting an extensive 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% of employees do not take a break other than lunch.
It's scientifically proven that taking breaks from work keeps us from getting bored, helps us remember information and allows us to reevaluate our goals. Encourage your call center agents by walking for a small amount of time, which can contribute to boosting creative thought, or grab a cup of coffee, meditation, or even a 10-minute workout.
So there you have it, six strategies on how to manage a heavy workload effectively in your call center. From becoming more efficient to assess 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.