What is workload management?
Workload management is defined as the process of assigning people or whole teams to the tasks and projects while monitoring their progress and work on their other responsibilities, if there are any. It is an essential part of project management, as well as resource management.
To put things simple, the main objective of workload management is to create a calendar of allocations that can show who does what and when, with as little overtimes and benches as possible.
In the end, the workload management should result in a creation of a plan or a calendar with allocations showing the exact team’s workload - just like in the example below.
Why is workload management important?
We already know what workload management is - but why do we need to discuss it in the first place?
What problems can you solve with workload management?
The answer to that question is fairly simple. That’s because it helps managers solve numerous issues they encounter in their daily work. That includes:
- Overworked and/or benched specialists. Workload management process notifies the project manager about these problems before they become more pressing. It also improves the morale of team members, as they do not have to struggle with too many duties or unrealistic due dates.
- Managing vacancies. In the workload management process, vacancies are clearly visible before the project starts. As a result, new specialists can be hired before lack of their skills negatively affects the company's operations or other team members.
- Managing allocations. With numerous projects at hand, project managers can sometimes find it hard to juggle their specialists’ availability and spread the team's workload evenly. Workload management can help them predict the situation for the weeks to come, improve resource management and prepare the tasks in an accurate manner.
- Solving conflicts between different projects. Some specialists work on a few projects at once, while other operations lack their skills in general. Workload management predicts such situations and solves them before they become urgent or burdensome for team members.
- Creating a realistic work schedule for the customer. Workload management allows managers to estimate how much time they need to complete a task or a project. As a result, they can provide customers with accurate information and, as a result, improve relationships with them. It also positively affects project management in the company as a whole, as new projects can be more precisely adjusted to the existing ones.
- Risk management. Unexpected absences are common in all the industries. However, with a workload management process in place, you can react to them as quickly as possible and find a replacement in minutes, if not seconds. As a result, team workload management is not so cumbersome.
Workload management vs employees’ needs
Apart from that, workload management processes are also beneficial for employees and team members themselves, although they see their impact a bit later on.
When specialists are given a work plan made with workload management processes in place, they can see exactly what they are expected to do, and when. As a result, they can prioritize their tasks and be more efficient than before.
Additionally, any team member can also be certain that their plans are accurate, as the chances of mishaps in planning with workload management are slim. If they also can see their tasks in sufficient management software, they have everything to succeed in the project!
5 steps to create a workload management process
It does not matter whether you want to manage workload for one employee, or an entire team - the process is similar for both of these cases. It consists of the following steps:
1. Review the current workload
To begin planning a new project, you must first establish how much time every team member and the entire team really have on their hands.
To do so, you need to calculate their available capacity, which is their total capacity minus absences, public holidays, and time scheduled in other projects and tasks. Let’s take a look at a quick example of how to do this.
Calculating employee’s capacity for workload management
For example, a single specialist works 160 hours a month on average - that’s his total capacity. However, he took three days off, reducing this amount by 24 hours, and he’s already assigned to a different project for another 60 hours. After deducting these two values from his total capacity, we can see that his available capacity is 76 hours.
Remember that you need to take all the time offs and absences into consideration while calculating capacity for workload management or project management in general; without them, your calculations will be incorrect!
Calculating team’s capacity for workload management
Let’s take a look at another example - that of a team of specialists who need some urgent resource management.
Out team consists of 3 people:
- a full-time employee who is taking a one week off this month,
- a part-time employee, who works just 20 hours a week,
- a full-time employee, who is also working on another project for 5 hours a week.
Let’s assume that, just like in the example above, we need to calculate the monthly capacity of that team for a month with 20 working days in it.
In that case, our calculations should start with individual capacity for each of the team members.
Workload management for full-time employees
The case of the first team member is, of course, the simplest. A full-time employee will come to work every day for 8 hours, bringing his capacity to exactly 160 hours - and that’s the maximum amount of hours he can spend working this month.
Workload management for part-time employees
The part-time team member, on the other hand, will only spend 20 hours a week at work. With 4 weeks in the calendar, his capacity for this month is exactly 80 hours.
Workload management for employees with multiple allocations
Things get a little bit more complicated with the third employee, who is already assigned to another project. His weekly capacity is, therefore, smaller by 5 hours. That leaves him with 140 hours he can spend working on other endeavors.
Calculating capacity for the entire team
Having calculated the capacity for each of the specialists, we can now predict the capacity for the entire team - we just need to add the individual capacities to do that.
In our case, we just need to add 160 hours from the first example to the 80 hours from the second example and 140 hours from the third example. As you can see, the capacity of this team is exactly 380 hours.
Should you have any questions regarding these calculations, you can delve into the capacity management even further - we have prepared a comprehensive guide to capacity for you!
How to make capacity calculation simpler?
While calculating the capacity for one employee or a team is fairly simple, calculating these values for each and every specialist in the company is definitely troublesome, or time consuming to say the least.
However, leading businesses do not do all the math by hand; instead, they use management software that provide them with such information right away.
For example, the users of Primetric can see the available capacity of each and every employee in the system. The capacity is calculated automatically in the real time based on the information on existing allocations in both billable and non-billable projects and it is a perfect base for both workload planning and time management as a whole.
Then, the capacity is displayed next to the name of the specialist in their profile.
2. Estimate time needed to complete the project and its stages
At this point, let’s assume that you have completed the first steps of a project life cycle and you already know what stages you need for the project to be successful. Now, you need to check how much time it will take for your employees to finish the job by completing subsequent project tasks. For that, you need to calculate a full-time equivalent for your project.
Full-time equivalent in workload management
Full-time equivalent is a unit of measurement companies use to calculate employee work and forecast their workforce needs. It simply stands for the number of hours a full-time employee spends working for your company.
But let’s not focus on a definition - let’s try to put that into an example. If we continue the example from the first step of this process, where a full-time employee works 160 hours a month, one monthly full-time equivalent will be exactly 160 hours. As such, the 160 hours become a base unit for project schedules, time management and workload planning.
At this point of the workload management process you can use the unit to check how many employees you need to complete a project or a part of it.
For example, let’s assume that a stage of the project requires 480 hours to complete. That means that you need at least 3 people to work full-time on the project for a month to deliver it.
This is particularly useful for team workload management, as with such estimates you know exactly how much time a team needs to complete its job.
3. Create a workload plan
With estimates in place, you can now create a workload plan that will act as an outline for your entire project.
At this stage, you should find the employees with available capacity, analyze their skills, and assign them to the stages of the project they match best. If you want to, you can also assign tasks and manage employee workload in detail, if you feel that is necessary.
It is best to manage employee workload on a timeline, Gantt chart, or in the calendar. These types of visualizations allow you to get a bigger picture of the project without being overly confusing. They are also a perfect choice for project management or assigning tasks.
Using the information on the screenshot above, we can easily see people who are allocated properly (green bars), as well as those who are overworked (purple bars) or have little to do (gray bar). Such a simple color coding can help you map your teams’ workload management without additional calculations or clicking through the spreadsheets.
Workload management plan - do’s and don'ts
First, remember that a good plan never takes more than 80% of an employee's total utilization. The 20% of the time is usually spent on internal affairs, other projects, or simply on managing the unexpected events.
To create a workload plan, we recommend that you use resource planning tools. That’s because they have numerous features that simply make the task easier. That includes:
- dynamic, drag-and-drop allocations you can use to edit the plan when necessary,
- search bar for resources,
- automatically calculated capacity,
- quick “find a replacement” form for unexpected absences,
- overbooking and “no work” alerts,
- time-offs, and public holidays management for precise capacity calculations.
4. Address any arising issues
No plan is without fault - the point is to spot the problems before they become a reality. Therefore, after creating a plan, you need to check whether it has any mistakes that could be harmful for your project, or worse, your employees.
Common problems in workload management
The most common problems you may encounter at this point include:
- Overbooking. It is particularly common for senior specialists who are in great demand. It indicates lack of employees with particular skills, and/or problems with recruitment processes.
- Vacancies. A few vacancies are generally nothing to worry about. However, when combined with high turnover rate or large gaps in project development, they need to be taken very seriously!
- Benches. Idle employees generate costs while not generating any profits. If you see many people with nothing to do in their calendar, you should consider acquiring new projects or supporting the existing ones with their skills.
- Unrealistic requirements or deadlines. At this point of workload management you can also see whether you are short of time for certain stages of the process. You must address this problem immediately - without your intervention, your operations are at risk of failing!
This list of potential problems is, however, not complete. Depending on the industry you work in, you may also face other issues - the key is to recognize them at this point!
5. Adjust the workload when necessary
If you completed the previous step, you certainly already know what is the greatest threat to your company’s operation. Now it’s the time to get rid of these issues!
At this point of workload management process, you should:
- set or adjust realistic deadlines,
- limit overbooking to a minimum by finding replacements or adding additional people to the project,
- moving the existing allocations or changing their duration,
- filling existing vacancies.
However, in some cases adjusting the plan is much easier than in others. For example, Primetric offers dynamic, drag-and-drop calendars that enable making changes right away.
It also shows any public holidays and other hurdles that may disturb your projects, helping you avoid them before they surprise you.
Tools for identifying issues in workload management process
Fortunately, you do not have to check every allocation to find every issue you need to solve before the project starts. Instead, you can use tools such as:
Calendar with extensive information on allocations. This tool will inform you about any problems before you actually get the workload management plan accepted.
Calendar with benches. Calendar should show a project manager not only the information on allocations, but also the lack of them - just like it is done in Primetric.
Tracked vs planned time. Project managers should analyze project statistics, as well as the statistics for those responsible for its delivery. A comparison between tracked and planned time is a perfect tool for that.
Advanced reports. Charts, tables and custom reports are the best tools for getting a comprehensive overview of the company, the project or people involved in it. In case of workload management process, capacity report or Gantt charts are the best choices.
Tips for effective workload management
The plan for workload management may look pretty simple - but you can still improve it!
- Set priorities. Focus on the most important objectives instead of correcting small tasks.
- Pay attention to holidays. They affect the capacity of your employees, and, if disregarded, they can be a root cause of all the delays in your operations!
- Track time. Some tasks may take longer than usual, while some will be shorter. In both of these cases, you need to adjust your project plan.
- Communicate. Any change in schedule affects your specialists’ work. Make sure they know what awaits them in the future!
- Avoid booking 100% of capacity. Delays, internal projects or simple breaks affect people’s capacity, too. Never assume they will do nothing but work on the project during their working hours!
- Automate the processes. Reporting, monitoring, time tracking and many other processes can be done with no human supervision. Use professional services automation to your advantage.
- Identify potential hurdles. Every project has some risk workload management has to include. Identify them before they make things more difficult.
- Monitor progress. Use advanced reports and business intelligence to stay on top of things.
Want to know more about workload management?
No problem! We have plenty of resources you can use to expand your knowledge.
You can start with:
- a guide to resource management in Jira,
- an instruction on how to create a resource management plan,
- an article about creating a perfect resource management process,
- an answer to the question of how to pick the best resource planning tool.
If you are already familiar with the subject, you can jump right into the improvements.