Boriana Valentinova

Overworked employees

Your employees are not lazy, they are probably overworked

I often help companies improve their working environment. It is an integral part of change management. And whilst there are many different reasons for a hostile company culture or demotivated teams, one keeps coming over and over again: overworked employees.

Especially for companies that have grown fast or have faced downsizing, the work/activities distribution needs to be more balanced. Many employees have multiple responsibilities, work many hours and deal with manual processing, thus delivering poor quality, resulting in unhappy customers. That, in turn, creates more workload and stress on the same team.

It is like a vicious circle. 

Demotivated employees do not engage with the company; they only want to finish the tiresome work, drop the pen, and be free. I’ve been there; I know how tedious that is.

However, their reaction is perceived as unreasonable, and their attitude as lazy. This lack of understanding among organisational levels is frequent, mainly due to a lack of leadership skills or too much focus on the business’s financial aspect and the P&L bottom line. 

A person can do only so much for a given period of time. That amount of work can increase if you provide automation, connected IT systems, clear roles and responsibilities, and SOP. But if you don’t, if the work is manual, not standardised, there is no clear accountability, the person is multitasking to the extreme, and pressure is ongoing…. the amount and the quality of work and commitment will decrease.  

So, set an order in your organisation.

  1. Estimate a realistic workload for each job position. To do that, consider how transactional or creative the job is and what tasks, activities, or responsibilities the person in that job has to fulfil. You might have to increase the headcount, but if you do it cleverly, it will also improve the quality and the quantity you deliver to your customers. So don’t consider your headcount an expense but an investment.
  2. Try to reduce to the maximum any non-value-adding activities and rework. You can implement continuous improvement techniques, process automation and centralised data lakes.
  3. Define clear roles and responsibilities – what people have to do, and what are they accountable for? Also, what team they are part of can collaborate. Define SOP (standard operating procedures) so no guessing or ‘common sense’ is involved.
  4. Define transparent organisational structure. This might seem like too much box mapping, but people appreciate knowing where they stand, who their boss is, and the escalation process for problem-solving.
  5. Provide a career path for everyone and also a learning and development framework. People’s first basic need in life is a certainty, but after that comes the need for growth, significance and connection. Keep that in mind and offer opportunities.
Organizational structure

These actions will give you the roadmap to foment a positive working environment. Once you have this solid basis, then re-evaluate your employees’ performance. You might discover that no one is falling into the lazy category!