Your team is overworked and overwhelmed. Here's how to lessen the load.

The first step? Leading by example.

In a world of constant communication, it is easy for workers to feel stressed and overwhelmed It's up to team leaders to help employees find balance, and it starts with being able to "lead by example," Julie Mosow writes in the Harvard Business Review.

According to Mosow, there are six ways leaders can help prevent workers from becoming burnt out during their workdays:

  1. Remember, change starts from the top down. When making alterations to your team's daily process, it is important to remind yourself that "the movement against busy starts at the top," says Liane Davey, VP of team solutions at Knightsbridge Human Capital. Leaders should alert their team about what they are doing to make a positive change when it comes to a heavy workload and show they are committed to progressing away from busy on both an individual and group level.

  2. Identify your team's value. Davey says leaders should ask themselves, "What does the company expect from my team that no other group can accomplish?" and garner input from team members about how they view their roles. Then, she says, the answer to that question becomes the "guiding principle" for how team members should spend their time in order to be most productive to the group goal.

  3. Evaluate team members' workloads. Leaders should edit employees' workloads based on whether assignments directly contribute to the "group's unique purpose ... and what's important to the larger goals of the organization," Davey says. In addition, they should ensure workers are not caught up in "low-priority work" that does not actively take advantage of their unique skills.  

  4. Design a schedule without interruptions. It takes workers at least 20 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted, so it is imperative that "everyone understand that there are to be no interruptions unless it's an emergency," says productivity expert Julie Morgenstern. She notes that is also important for team members to learn how to use time effectively by divvying up larger projects into smaller tasks that can be accomplished in a more compressed timeframe.

  5. Use meeting time wisely. Meetings can be a huge time suck. In order to make meetings more efficient, managers should first make sure a meeting is actually necessary. If it is, Morgenstern says leaders should determine who actually needs to attend the meeting, set no more than three goals, and use the last 15 minutes to discuss how participants will move forward with various tasks and objectives.  However, Morgenstern cautions, "Sometimes an email or memo can accomplish the same goal in a much shorter amount of time."

  6. Avoid after-hours emails. We live in a culture where there is constant access to email and phone calls, even after work and on weekends. So it is important for leaders to encourage employees to take time to "recharge" and limit after-hours emails to only urgent subject matters. Morgenstern says, "Over time, most people realize that there's very little that can't wait" and that making an effort to have fulfilling lives outside of work is just as important as professional success (Mosow, Harvard Business Review, 1/16).

The takeaway: The first step to helping your team lessen their workload and find balance in the workplace is to lead by example through things like implementing strict no-email policies and holding only meetings that are completely necessary.


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