Evidence-based actions for workload management

These actions and responses can be implemented with a minimal investment of resources or cost to the organization.

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Description: In a work environment where there is positive workload management, employees feel supported to complete their assigned tasks and responsibilities successfully.

You can access our free workshop materials to engage your team in a discussion about workload management.

Consider whether your work culture increases or decreases workload stress. 

  • Cultivate a work culture that clearly values the quality and effort of work performed over output alone. 
  • Consider whether staff turnover rates are reasonable for your sector. Ask those who are leaving about their experience with work stress at your organization. 

Address job insecurity. 

  • Precarious work such as casual, contract, or seasonal jobs can provoke feelings of job insecurity, which can be particularly stressful for employees. In addition, any changes in the work environment, policies, or processes can create uncertainty around job security. All of this can have a negative impact on employee focus and productivity, as well as psychological health and safety. 
    • Helping employees manage change includes a section on job insecurity. It provides strategies that organizations can use even when employment or economic uncertainty is a reality. It also includes information about a psychologically safer way to handle termination or layoff planning. 

Ensure all supervisors and leaders set clear and reasonable expectations.  

  • Provide supervisors with the necessary time to meet with employees about workload challenges. 
  • Provide training so leaders have the skillset to support employees to meet their workload requirements.
  • Have all leaders work with employees to: 
    • Feel comfortable speaking up about workload stress. If this is a concern, Building trust for leaders could help. 
    • Agree on reasonable expectations 
    • Identify any barriers to success 
    • Create solutions  
  • Task improvement process | PDF includes a fillable form to help employees focus on specific tasks that require attention.   
  • The Getting employee commitment for leaders approach actively engages employees in developing a plan that meets the organization’s needs and increases their willingness to commit over the long term. 

Develop strategies for managing workloads with your employees. 

  • Review the results of the Putting workload management on the agenda: creating awareness workshop. This will provide input from employees about their workload stressors and proposed solutions.  
  • The higher the demands at work, the more important it can be for employees to have some level of control. However, it may not be possible to give employees control over how their work is prioritized due to regulations, safety concerns, or customer or patient demands. Explore areas where employees can have some control over their assigned tasks to help them work more effectively.  
  • Take steps to identify and prevent burnout for your employees. Inform new employees of accurate and realistic job demands and expectations. 
  • Include explicit and reasonable productivity expectations in job descriptions. 
  • Review productivity expectations on a regular basis. 
  • Provide pay or lieu time for approved overtime worked. 
  • Analyze and audit jobs to determine: 
    • Workload demands 
    • Equity in work distribution 
    • Areas for improvement 
  • Help with prioritizing, eliminating redundant tasks and managing deadlines.  
  • Provide education on topics related to workload management, such as time management and the use of technology. 
  • Ensure employees have the necessary equipment and supports to complete their work competently and efficiently. These may include adequate time, tools, technology and clear instructions.  
  • Create and implement strategies for dealing with peak periods of demand, sick leave or unfilled positions. For example, temporary employees, job pools or job-sharing could cover staffing shortages.  
    • Check out Employee stress prevention process for some questions that can help you identify sources of work-related stress, and steps you can take to reduce the risk of burnout. 
  • Prepare employees for anticipated periods of increased work, such as seasonal demands and peak shift hours. 
  • Consider providing non-remunerative perks during times of excessive work demands. These could include: 
    • Meals 
    • Covering transportation costs 
    • Time or help running personal errands 
  • Discuss workplace interruptions and disruptions with employees. Brainstorm potential solutions, including: 
    • Changing the use of technology 
    • Limiting meeting times 
    • Revising communication strategies 
    • Scheduling quiet time 
    • Managing lights, noise, or foot traffic 
    • Although you may not be able to eliminate all interruptions, providing protected time during the day may help. 
  • Include best practices for protecting employee psychological safety in your policies and procedures. 

Additional actions and resources  

Putting workload management on the agenda provides you with materials to support a team discussion on approaches to workload management as well as materials to support policy review and development.

Adapted from Guarding Minds at Work™

© Samra, J., Gilbert, M., Shain, M., Bilsker, D. 2009-2020, with amendments by Stuart, H. 2022.  All rights reserved. Website development and data storage by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Guarding Minds at Work was commissioned by Canada Life and additional resources are supported by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

Contributors include.articlesDan BilskerDavid K. MacDonaldDr. Heather StuartDr. Joti SamraDr. Martin ShainMary Ann BayntonMerv GilbertPhilip PerczakSarah JennerSusan JakobsonWorkplace Safety and Prevention ServicesWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021Workplace Strategies team 2022 to present

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