Managing Heavy Workloads

By: Audrey Adelson, MSW, WLCP

June 2017


Increasing numbers of us are starting to wonder, “Will the heavy workloads ever let up?” “Will the resources and support of days past ever return and how will I continue to keep up at this pace both at home and at work?” And the real question everyone is asking today is “Is this the new normal?”


Workloads are high. There is no doubt about it. People are stressed and feeling crunched with all they have to do. Times have changed and so must we if we are to going to keep up and manage our work-life. Below are some suggestions to help you feel more in control and productive of your time:


1. Determine your work-style

It is helpful to understand one’s work style in order to increase effectiveness both at home and at work. Work style refers to how a person manages their work and personal boundaries – how they manage their time and energy. As a person manages workload, it may be helpful to know how they view themselves in respect to their organizational, personal, and interpersonal needs. Where does one prioritize their time and manage their boundaries around work and personal responsibilities?


2. Clarify and manage expectations
Clarifying and managing expectations in one’s work and personal life can be useful when trying to manage a heavy workload. The key to doing this is effective communication. In effort to avoid duplication or waste of time, try to be on the same page as those you are working with whether in your work or personal relationships. When messages are unclear, timeline issues and conflict arise. Sometimes it may be necessary for you to have this conversation with yourself (silently of course). Those of us with unrealistic expectations of ourselves tend to set unrealistic expectations of others. We need to take it easy on both ourselves and others when things cannot realistically be accomplished.


3. Enlist the help of others

Enlisting the help of others and delegating can be very helpful ways of managing heavy workloads. In the workplace, one needs to be mindful of what work is being handed off and the reason for doing so. In a time when many are looking for professional development opportunities, receiving a special assignment or the chance to try something new may be welcome, but we all need to be cautious that we are not dumping work onto someone else when he already has a heavy workload or to avoid doing something we don’t want to do ourselves. Seeking out professional help with personal responsibilities such as cleaning a house or helping with yard work may be feasible for some people, but not financially affordable to everyone. Hiring a sitter or personal assistant may sound nice to some, while others may prefer to keep these responsibilities to themselves as they value the time with their children or to themselves. Avoid making judgment calls and assumptions, but do enlist the help of others where you can (and pay it forward when you able to as well).


4. Learn to respectfully decline.

Remember that it is okay to respectfully say no sometimes. Seek help if you are struggling with being able to decline. Coaching is available to help you learn to avoid accepting too much work out of guilt or a false sense of obligation. If you are finding it challenging to decline additional projects at work due to your plate already being full and feel apprehensive about talking to your manager about it, take advantage of the free help available at FSAP. Being unable to set clear boundaries is a major roadblock to effective work-life.


5. Rethink how, where, and when you do your work

Try to think flexibly. Consider different ways to manage your time and work smarter both personally and professionally. Prioritize your time – it is valuable. Learn ways to use technology to help you. If you are unsure about how it can help you, research it and learn. Each of us needs to weigh our situations differently. What works for one person will not necessarily work for everyone. If you are a university employee interested in exploring a flexible work arrangement, the Emory WorkLife Resource Center has resources to help you online and consultations are available. If you are a manager at the university and are interested in supporting your staff more with regards to work-life and/or creating a more flexible working environment for your staff, consultations are also available.


6. Take care of yourself

While a reminder from us to take care of yourself is a must, so is for you to reserve time in your day and on your calendar to do it. When trying to manage a heavy workload, we often forget to get up from our desk for lunch or worse yet, we skip lunch all together. Make it a promise to yourself to get away from your desk at least once or twice a week for lunch. Set aside time in your week to exercise and spend time with a friend. Give yourself permission to volunteer at your child’s school or take in an event on campus. Burnout comes when we don’t schedule this type of time into our routine. It breaks up the stress and helps us see that there is more to life than work.


To learn more about resources available to help you manage a heavy workload or to schedule a work-life consultation, contact the Emory WorkLife Resource Center at (404) 727-8000.


Additional resources:

Strategies for Work-Life Effectiveness
Faculty Staff Assistance Program
Flex+Strategy Group