Is your workload endlessly snowballing? Do you struggle to keep up with ever-increasing pressures and demands? Are you still reeling from post-pandemic workplace disruption? It could be the answer to all three is a resounding "YES!"
Times have never been so challenging professionally and if you speak to colleagues and co-workers, it’s likely you’re not alone. According to an IPSOS survey, over half of Australians (51%) reported feeling stressed due to changes in work routines and organisation caused by Covid.
When you feel like you’re barely treading water, this is not a sustainable pace to operate from.
Let’s explore why you may be feeling busier than ever at work and see what you can do about it to improve your quality of life both personally and professionally.
Why am I feeling busier than ever at work?
Before Covid, about 42% of Australian employees were working from home. Post Covid that figure has gone up to 67% - over two thirds of the national workforce. While WFH has its advantages, it presents a myriad of challenges. Your work-life balance is in turmoil, you’re leading team remotely (that you can’t keep tabs on as much as you’d like) and collaboration and communication become harder to control.
Keeping all these balls in the air when you’re not in physical contact with your team equates to what seems like a heavier workload – or at least one that is tricker to manage.
Non-stop digital accessibility
Back-to-back Zoom meetings, countless texts and continually updating Teams, Slack or Asana. Sound familiar? From the minute you check your emails first thing to that final inbox scroll in bed before your head hits the pillow, being glued to your devices and always on call takes its toll.
RingCentral’s From Workplace Chaos to Zen study revealed that an incredible more than two thirds of workers say they waste up to an hour at work a day navigating between apps. What’s more, 70% said their communications volume presents a challenge to getting their work done.
When you have to juggle multiple comms platforms it can feel like you never come up for air. Not to mention, when you’re constantly task switching it can feel like you don’t actually achieve anything at all. Frustrating, right?
You’re not managing your time well enough
Chances are you could be feeling busier than ever – not because you actually are – but because you’re not strategically managing your time efficiently enough. Poor time management can lead to missed deadlines, a lesser quality of work, fractured working relationships and of course, the increasing feeling you are overloaded.
Don’t beat yourself up – if you’re being pulled in lots of directions constantly it’s easy to take your eye off the ball.
You’re too good at your job
The more you demonstrate excellent performance, the more work can be thrown in your direction. Being a great team leader may lead to unrealistic expectations from your company’s directors. Or, when you’re a competent high achiever, your ability to over-accomplish may trigger a temptation to spread yourself too thin. Furthermore, if you’re angling for a promotion your desire to push and push could lead to burnout.
How can I manage my workload better?
Think before you send
Before you take half an hour to rattle off a lengthy email, think; ‘is this something I can tie up with a quick five-minute phone call instead?’ It’s easy to rely on your go-to communication methods, though it’s best to consciously consider which one would be most time-efficient before you start to type and hit the send button.
Don’t be afraid to block time off on your calendar
When you feel like you never get anything meaningful done because you’re always on the phone or responding to emails it’s vital you set aside time to actually do some work yourself.
One of the best things to do when you feel overwhelmed by your workload is to create a window or two each week when you turn on those do-not-disturb alerts or out of office auto replies for a solid block of hours. Then, make sure your team or clients know you are unable to respond to any enquiries during this period of time.
Trust your team, delegate and remember your boundaries
If you’re prone to a helicoptering or micro-managing style of leadership, chances are you could be wasting a lot of time and energy trying to oversee what your team is up to – especially if you’re all working remotely.
Rather than interfering or pestering them, make it clear to them you respect their ability to meet goals and deadlines autonomously. And always clearly communicate your expectations so your team meets them.
Revaluate how you spend your time to increase efficiency
Perhaps you’re wasting too much time on unnecessary Teams meetings? Maybe you’ve set goals that are out of reach? Maybe you are flicking off emails as thoughts pop into your head which just means you get twice as many back? Or does your overall organisation need a top-to-bottom reboot? If you’re feeling too busy or overwhelmed at work, you could boost your productivity by assessing and overhauling how you go about your day.
Monitor and track what you spend your time on before implementing a new weekly calendar in advance, that will enable you to finish what you start, limit distractions, and keep on top of your team.
How can I support my wellbeing when feeling overwhelmed at work?
Set clear boundaries when working from home
When you WFH everything can become one big blur and separating work and home life is a nightmare. To combat this and relieve feelings of being overwhelmed, think like you are in the office or on site:
Get dressed as you would for work rather than sit at your laptop in your pyjamas. Set alarms for clear start, finish and break times. Use your ‘commute’ window of time constructively. Even something as simple as preparing your lunch the night before can save you valuable time.
Make stress your friend
Stress is a natural biological response to an environmental condition or perceived threat. How you perceive stress impacts your body’s response to it. Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal is a big advocate for turning stress from a negative into a positive by using it to build resilience and connection to others.
When you’re stressed your body doesn’t just produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, it also produces oxytocin, the hormone linked to empathy and bonding. McGonigal suggests the best cure for stress is to connect with others – be it colleagues, friends or family. So, when you feel your heartrate elevating or the tension rising, consider it a helpful alarm bell.
Lead by example
If your workload causes you to be late for meetings or neglect your employee’s concerns, this isn’t a good sign. The knock-on effect could be you’re then having to picking up mistakes made by your team. Sound familiar? Then it could be time to think about how you can lead more effectively.
By setting a better example you will increase productivity and efficiency. As a team leader, the buck stops with you so take accountability and responsibility when necessary. Demonstrate that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty and get stuck into a project yourself when it matters. Take setbacks and failures with grace and keep morale high by showing your employees how they can bounce back.
When your team is running like a well-oiled machine your trust builds, your stress levels will reduce - and you may even free up more time to spend on the activities you love the most.
Coronavirus triggered dramatic shifts in the workplace landscape, and WFH presents many challenges to managing workflows.
A slew of tech and cloud-based communication platforms means you find it hard to switch off from work.
Poor time management can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed with work.
If you are a high achiever at work, your seniors may have unachievable expectations of you.
Always consider the most effective communication channel so you are not wasting time with lengthy emails.
Create substantial windows in your calendar where you will not be disturbed so you can actually get what you need to do done.
Communicate trust and expectations with your team so they can carry out their tasks autonomously without you needing to monitor them so closely.
Conduct a review of how you are spending your time so you can create a more effective daily and weekly planner.
When working from home, set boundaries to create a healthier work-life balance.
Make stress your friend rather than be overwhelmed by it. Use stress as an opportunity to build your connections with others.
Lead by example so your team is always firing on all cylinders, and you are not picking up the slack from poor performance.
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.