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The hidden cost of overworked employees

hiring Feb 01, 2023

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The hidden cost of overworked employees

The year was 2013 and Gregg Popovich (coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs) changed the game of basketball, and sports in general, forever.

Towards the end of a 6-game in 9-night stretch, Popovich made the choice to send 3 starters and their sixth man home to rest instead of play. In turn, Adam Silver fined the team $250,000.

Since this point, all teams have adopted this strategy, which has come to be called “load management.”

The NBA season is long… 82 games are played from the middle of October to early April, which means teams play a game about every other day.

During road trips, they can play 2 games in 3 nights or 3 in 5 nights.

For the teams that make the playoffs, they could play up to 28 more games and extend their season to June.

So, to avoid potential injuries and fatigue, teams have started to sit players in the hopes that they’ll be in peak condition during the playoff.

The more technical way to put this is they’re limiting players acute load to manage their chronic load.

The acute load is the short-term load someone takes on, typically in days or weeks (but could be up to a month).

The chronic load is the cumulative load over a month or more.

In the NBA’s case, they’re thinking in terms of seasons.

With your workforce, you might be thinking in terms of years, but the concept still holds.

Businesses, especially cyclical ones, experience ebbs and flows in their business.

This results in a higher acute load for workers, which creates stress in the organization., but can also create excitement.

If the acute load remains high too long, the chronic load is impacted.

Workers could burn out, make bad decisions, or have lower job satisfaction.

Burnout means lower productivity.

Bad decisions mean wasted money and lower profits (3% lower to be exact).

Lower job satisfaction means more turnover (31% higher when satisfied, 10% lower when not.

More turnover costs you real money. To replace a technical worker, it will cost 100 to 150% of that person's salary. The cost of turnover is no joke. Turnover problems can run you out of business!

So, how do we manage acute and chronic workload?

How to manage workload

Stay connected

Too many managers give their employees a task and walk away, to never be seen again.

In my experience, most overwork, and the stress related, is connected to poor prioritization of tasks.

Ask your employees:

  1. What they’re working on
  2. What is most important
  3. What they’re concerned about finishing

When I’ve done this, I’ve been able to tell them “What if you worked on this first? I can help with that later.”

Oftentimes, lack of clarity by you is a big part of their overwhelm and poor prioritization. By circling back around and “staying connected,” you’re able to correct any mistakes you made up front.

Give workers flexibility

When workers lack flexibility, they lack the feeling of control.

By giving them flexibility, you help them feel more in control of their job and day.

Giving flexibility means:

  1. Focusing on the outcome you want, not the methods
  2. Giving time off to deal with family matters
  3. Encouraging breaks

We often assume that our employees work best when they work like us.

Wrong! They work best when they work like them.

Clearly communicate the purpose

It’s so easy to give the task but not the reason. Sometimes the reason is even seen as irrelevant.

We’re like the parent telling the child “do what I say because I said it!”

But, adults want to be treated like adults.

You do this by:

  1. Communicating the desired end state
  2. Identifying what success looks like

When the purpose is communicated, work is often done more effectively than simply following your instructions.

Remind people it’s temporary

When acute workload is high, it’s good to remind them.

Work isn’t always going to be easy and people expect that.

When the acute workload increase has a concrete end, it helps workers stay positive.

Don’t lie about the end, as that can have the opposite effect.

Look for technological solutions

This is especially important when an acute increase looks to be sneaking into the chronic area.

Investing in new solutions will increase the workload in the short-term, but it provides a long-term chronic workload improvement.

The key is to not “fill” the space with more tasks, but to allow employees to fill the space themselves. You’d be amazed at what they come up with.

You should always be looking for ways to automate processes, streamline communication, and reduce manual data entry. This “front runs” acute and chronic workload issues.

Be encouraging

Have you ever had a boss that adds to your stress?

You have? Ok, so don’t be that boss.

Tell your employees you appreciate them and do it like you mean it.

Receiving encouragement is energizing and will help employees cross the finish line with “juice” to spare.

Something Interesting

  • How do you get the best returns when investing? By having a long-term mindset. Each Wednesday Brian Feroldi’s newsletter “Long-Term Mindset” shares 5 timeless pieces of content that encourage long-term thinking. Join 40,000+ today.
  • In America, it always seems the news comes from the coasts. The Heartland is treated by many as if it doesn’t exist… So when I saw an article on how innovative the heartland (and how PCs started in my home state of Oklahoma, not silicon valley, I had to share this article.
  • AI, as it is today, is using what we’ve published to create its content. Our images, our blog posts, and our thoughts. It’s stealing our work! So, I thought this article asking whether we should be paid by AI was an interesting read.

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