Question: I’ve been working as a manager in a PR agency for five years and have really enjoyed my job until recently. In the past three months my workload – and that of my team – has dramatically increased and I am unable to get everything successfully completed. To try and finish my work, I limit breaks and frequently avoid lunch. We have gained a new contract, so I know we will all be working even harder. How can I gently bring my concerns to my supervisor?
Answer: While it is positive that the PR agency you work for is busy, being chronically overstretched can quickly lead to burnout, which will negatively impact your work and your personal life.
You need to develop tactics to cope with your workload in the short term, while also developing a long-term strategy to better resource your department to cope with the increased workload.
Take your breaks: Research has consistently proven that those who take regular breaks away from their work are more productive in the long run. Creating some mental space from a problem can give a new perspective, remove the tension from a situation, and give you a chance to replenish your energy. The quality of the time spent at your desk is far more important than the quantity.
Work smarter: Take some time as a group to list your daily tasks and examine how they are shared among your team. This exercise can highlight areas of duplication and inefficiency. For example, two people generating a very similar report but for a different purpose. Asking one person to generate a report, which serves the needs of both individuals, can reduce time spent on the task by the team. Explore the possibility of using software, shared platforms, or other IT packages.
Raise your concerns: While managing your workload better may improve conditions, as new contracts are secured the pressure on your team will continue to grow. Discuss your concerns with your supervisor, outlining the challenges you are facing, as well as potential solutions.
Request a one-to-one meeting and set an agenda
Ensure you and your supervisor have set aside enough time and interruptions are minimal. Close the email function on your laptop and turn off your phone to avoid being distracted. Ensure your supervisor is clear regarding the purpose of the meeting. This will help ensure that you don’t deviate into the day-to-day tasks of your business but rather focus on resources.
Keep the conversation positive
Resist the temptation to “moan” about your workload or the performance of individual team members. Instead, focus on the positive nature of the problem – the success of your organisation is such that you have more business or custom than you can manage!
Outline the steps you have taken
Develop a brief report regarding the steps you have taken to date. If you have allocated workload slightly differently, investigated potential improvements to efficiency, or developed processes or structures, let your supervisor know.
This highlights your professionalism, as well as the extent of the issue you are facing.
Put forward potential solutions
If your supervisor told you that you could have access to any resources you require, what would you request? Prepare notes to present to your supervisor outlining the reasoning behind your request and the potential impact on the business.
Follow up, to confirm actions and timelines
Prepare a summary of decisions made and actions planned. Assign each action a timeframe and indicate who is responsible for its implementation. This will provide a way forward.
Continue to build your business
A common mistake made by busy teams is to focus too intently on the task at hand. Remain conscious of future timelines and targets, and continue to strive to develop the business further.
This will promote the success of your role, your team, and the organisation as a whole.
This article was first published in the business section of The Sunday Independent on the 10th of December, 2017. To view the original publication please click here.
Senior Occupational Psychology Consultant