Biggest challenges in managing workloads

Biggest challenges in managing workloads
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The way we work is evolving, offering employees increased flexibility and more ways to communicate than ever before. But with more channels to coordinate and collaborate, information is becoming increasingly fragmented across different business apps and platforms. The result – responsibilities are unclear, work becomes siloed and employees are left grappling to keep pace with a never-ending barrage of notifications.

About the author

Robbie O’Connor, Head of EMEA at Asana.

Adding to this is the challenge presented by antiquated systems, such as email, which leave critical information and documents stuck in threads or inaccessible to the wider team. This lack of transparency means employees are forced to spend hours a week hunting down information and are wasting valuable time in an attempt to get up to speed.

What is ‘work about work’ and how is this impacting job satisfaction and performance?

People at every size of company – in every industry – are spending hours in unnecessary meetings, responding to emails, replying to messaging pings, searching for documents and files, and duplicating efforts. Our Anatomy of Work Index revealed that global knowledge workers think they spend a third of their time on work about work but in reality, nearly double that is spent on low value, repetitive tasks including searching for information, meetings and communicating about work. 

The same survey showed that employee performance (39%) and retention (33%) has been affected most by organisations not managing workloads effectively. While all work can’t be high-value, there are ways to reduce the amount of unproductive or repetitive tasks completed on a daily basis, including minimising unnecessary meetings or automating repetitive tasks. Providing clarity around how to prioritise work based on what’s going to deliver the most business value is another great way to improve performance and drive efficiencies.

At Asana, we leverage a structure called the “Pyramid of Clarity” to align everyone on the high-level purpose and goals of the day to day work they are doing, and the concrete results an individual’s work should produce. These high-level goals should feed into a subset of shorter-term goals, creating a firm foundation which enables managers to provide a clear vision of what needs to happen and when.

How does technology shape the way we now work? What are the benefits and downfalls? 

In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of apps and software programs aimed at helping workers improve communication and collaboration. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for organisations and their employees.

While the adoption of new apps and tools can often be the perfect solution to boost employee productivity levels, they’re only as effective as the teams that use them. From an employee perspective, it’s important to take control of your notifications or they’ll end up controlling you. Partially muting notifications or leaving them on for specific projects can help to limit distractions whilst at work and allow you to switch off once you’ve left for the day. The companies who have created the software we use in work also want to ensure that users can ‘switch off’. In Asana, we’re enhancing notifications on mobile and web, giving customers more control over about how and when they’re alerted.

Businesses should also seek to outline how and when tools should be used, detailing whether these will integrate or replace existing processes, and what the desired outcome should be for every individual. Without factoring in these considerations, chaos will ensue, leaving teams grappling with varying processes and disjointed workflows.

How can organisations effectively manage individual and team processes to help reduce duplication of work?

Work duplication is typically a result of a lack of visibility, whether that be across individual teams or different departments. Over 10 per cent of an employee’s day - 4 hours and 38 minutes per week - is spent on tasks that have already been completed. This amounts to more than 200 hours of duplicated effort and wasted efficiency annually. This is an unsurprising outcome when so much information and important documents are tied up in emails or buried in threads.

To avoid this, organisations should seek to implement tools which offer greater transparency, such as file-sharing services, which make files and information more accessible to managers and employees across the organisation. Increasingly transparency can also act to drive greater employee accountability for the work they’re completing, which can allow teams to work more effortlessly together.

Why is automation is key to improving employee engagement and achieving better business outcomes?

We are living in an increasingly dynamic and globalised working environment and in order to keep pace and remain competitive, it will be increasingly critical for businesses and their employees to implement processes and technologies which will help them work smarter, not harder. 

To keep pace, businesses should set out to increase their adoption to automated tools in a bid to remove or minimise the amount of low-value or repetitive tasks from the working day and give employees time back to focus on the work they were hired to do. This will not only help to drive efficiencies, but it will also help employees become more invested in how the work they’re doing is working to help progress company objectives.

Robbie O’Connor, Head of EMEA at Asana.