The Overworked Team

Over the past decade work teams have been asked to "do more with less". At first, there was ample excess to trim away, but as time goes on most work teams have now eliminated extraneous resources, and have unburdened themselves of extra team members. These teams are now in the unenviable position of having to "do less with less", because they are too lean to fully function.

Overworked teams find themselves in a vicious cycle. The harder the team tries to stay on top of their mounting workload, the more stressed team members feel. Tension-filled team members tend to suffer from a variety of stressed-induced ailments, which cause them to take time off. Use of sick time and "stress leave" results in the team being short staffed, thus they fall even farther behind, and create even more stress for the remaining team members. In short, unremitting work overload begets reduced productivity due to absence and burnout.

The psychological impact of knowing that no matter how hard you work, you will never be current with your tasks tends to make even the most dedicated worker give up. The tendency to give up in the face of an ever-increasing workload is called "burnout." Ironically, burned out workers don't tend to take a leave of absence, but report to work daily and decrease their contribution to team outcomes. "If I don't get it done today, it will still be here tomorrow", these exhausted workers utter as they find excuses not to tackle the barrage of duties heaped upon them.

There is but one way to combat the problems caused by overwork, and that is to decrease the workload. Several strategies are available to achieve this end; hire more workers, invest in better equipment or technology, increase the supply of needed resources, make better use of existing resources, delegate some tasks sets to other work teams, and streamline current work processes. Doing any or all of these things will not only result in increased team productivity, but will also win you the gratitude of weary workers.