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It’s time to talk about the risks of high workloads


Folks, it’s time we talked about workload.

Workload is a really tricky one when it comes to wellbeing. We know the impact that it has on wellbeing; it’s recognised as one of the most common drivers of burnout, and was recognised in our own State of Workplace Wellbeing Survey as the most common barrier to employee wellbeing.

The survey also showed that only a quarter of businesses believe that workloads are managed appropriately in their workplace.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the challenging workplace wellbeing issues to influence.

The interventions to manage workload are often complex and time-consuming. It often involves rethinking how work is structured or managed across your whole organisation. This means there aren’t many quick fixes or ‘magic bullet’ answers to the issue. In many cases, there are also significant external factors which impact workload (such as staff availability, inconsistency in supply chain, or production costs), which are outside anyone’s control to influence.

But we wanted to give you some thought starters, based on our own conversations with wellbeing managers and workplaces from around the world.

Senior leadership engagement is absolutely key here. After all, out-and-out doing less is not likely to get too much pick-up at senior leadership tables. But senior leaders are more able to set things like internal project deadlines, resourcing, service delivery expectations, contingent labour and so on. Their understanding of the relationship between workload, wellbeing and performance is crucial here.

Also on senior leaders, what behaviour are they modelling? If they are regularly working 60-hour weeks (or more!) – what message is that sending the rest of the organisation? And what is the impact on that leader’s wellbeing?

Addressing meeting hygiene and bloat can be a quick win to help get workload under control. Anecdotally, we’ve heard a number of organisations struggling with this – particularly in a hybrid work environment. What used to be a 2-minute conversation at a desk is now a 30 minute Teams meeting. People having back-to-back meetings for extended periods of the day is commonplace, leaving the end of the day or evenings as the only time to address their actual work.

This issue is far more complex and nuanced than we will ever be able to fully do justice to in one short email, but hopefully this gets you thinking about your own workplace and what can be done.

Is this something you’re currently grappling with? 
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