When Your Team Is Overloaded - And There's More Work Ahead

By Brice Cochran

The pressure's on. You've just signed five new projects. You've received the largest project in your company's history. You just got three trailer loads of timbers with another load coming next week. Whatever it may be, everyone in the shop and office is working around the clock. 

Early mornings and late nights are taking a toll on your staff. But with deadlines looming and timbers that need to be cut, the workload can't take a back seat.

We've all been there. It's clear that you need help, but there's no way you can hire and train a new framer to alleviate the work in time. Even if you're able to find someone quickly or get an itinerant framer on board, training that person will just add one more task to your team's to-do list.

Business may be booming, but it's pretty much pointless if you don't have any staff to run the company. And while your company may be thriving, morale may suffer. It's a hard place for any leader.

When pressure builds, here are five practical things you can do to support your team.

1. Acknowledge what's happening.

Overworked and underappreciated are two surefire ways to find a resignation letter on your desk. When the to-do list never seems to end and the leader doesn't notice, employees start to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and resentful.

You have to acknowledge what's happening. When someone who typically manages three projects is suddenly juggling six, you can bet their stress levels are going through the roof.

So even though you're in the thick of it, and you may not feel you have time, hold a company-wide meeting let them know that you realize this isn't the standard amount of work, and that you recognize they're going above and beyond. Acknowledgment will immediately bring the boiling point down to a simmer and also give them a sense that everyone in the company is in the same boat.

2. Talk about it.

Acknowledging your team’s effort is a great start, and you can build on that by talking with individual team members. Depending on the size of your company, meet with the shop manager and other managers and ask them to speak with their staff about the current workload. 

Let people vent. Sometimes we all need a sounding board to let go of our frustrations and stress levels. It may be difficult to hear, but a huge part of leadership is being there for your employees. Give them a platform to speak and be heard.

3. Thank them. Then reward them.

How would you feel if you spent hours preparing a gourmet meal for your friends and family, and then not one person thanked you or even complimented the food?

You think the “thank you” could go without saying, but time and time again leaders forget how important those two little words are. Acknowledgment is one thing, gratitude is another. Tell them what a good job they're doing. Then do it again. And again.

And after all of this hard work, they certainly deserve a reward. Whether it's a bonus, travel vouchers, or a company retreat, make their efforts worthwhile.


4. Give them a light at the end of the tunnel.

Don't forget that people have lives outside of work. Whenever possible, notify employees in advance that you've just signed on new projects or that a timetable has been changed. From soccer practice to caring for parents to school field trips, if they're about to work overtime, many will need to plan accordingly.

Now's the time to put a plan in place. Be transparent with employees that you're taking steps to ensure you're better staffed and prepared should a future overload situation arise. That way you and your team can stay busy, not burned out.

5. Follow through.

Once the company has a little more breathing room, get to work. Put your plan into action and develop and implement processes to hire more people, train more staff, and alleviate people's workloads.

Remember that company retreat and bonus you promised them? Well, you can bet they didn't. Don't be all talk. Be a leader who takes action, and builds morale instead of burnout. 

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