How to Help Your Employees Balance Workloads When Teammates Leave

Here’s how to set systems, protocols, and processes in place to keep things running smoothly when your business experiences turnover.

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Help Your Employees Balance Workloads When Teammates Leave

When you lose an employee, a void forms. The size and severity of that void varies based on that particular employee’s output and performance, but there’s a void regardless. Unfortunately, while people may come and go from particular positions, they leave their workloads at the desks they’ve vacated.

This begs the question: who gets that work done if the person in that role leaves? If your company is an organized, well-maintained ship, you’ll have systems, protocols, and processes in place to keep things running smoothly even during times of high turnover.

This transitions nicely into our next point: part of your responsibility as a manager is to help employees balance workloads after their teammate leaves the organization. There are lots of ways you can do this. We’ve detailed a few of them in the paragraphs below.

Implement cross-training

The concept of cross-training is simple but effective: train incoming employees across different departments or positions so that they acquire a wider set of skills.

Cross-training can happen organically or out of necessity. Sometimes, it can become necessary for seasonal paid time off (PTO) rushes. The benefits of cross-training are numerous. Among them are that you save money, strengthen team relationships, improve overall employee satisfaction … the list continues.

If this isn’t built into your onboarding process already, consider implementing it. Besides, at the end of the day, there are few things more empowering than having employees feel like they are equipped to step up and make a difference in multiple areas.

Be transparent

Transparency is huge. It can mean the difference between a smooth, mostly painless transition period for teams and an emotionally fraught, stressful time of chaos. The line can be a fine one, and it can become quite easy to cross. It’s best to be upfront about these things every day, but it’s especially important during times of transition or upheaval.

Think about the pandemonium that would ensue if you didn’t mentally and emotionally prepare your employees for a teammate’s departure. The ramifications would be severe and immediate. People would quickly begin to feel overwhelmed, out of the loop, and even undervalued. No one likes feeling left out or kept in the dark, so remember that as you prepare your official response to an employee’s departure. There will be ripple effects, and transparency will help mitigate them.

Transparency is huge. It can mean the difference between a smooth, mostly painless transition period for teams and an emotionally fraught, stressful time of chaos.

Evaluate employee schedules

Making sure you’re aware of when everyone works, how long their shifts are, and where they stand in terms of PTO is vital. As you and your team prepare for a coworker’s departure, pull up everyone’s schedules and evaluate them. Consult other HR managers if you feel extra input or insight is necessary.

Does someone need to take a day or two off before things start ramping up? Make sure they’re aware that they have unused benefits. This is the time to make sure everyone is at the top of their game. It is a good idea to stay on top of everyone’s work schedules anyway, both for accountability reasons and to offer advice or guidance regarding time management and PTO.

Celebrate employees who are going above and beyond

This is important but it can be tricky if it’s not planned or thought out. You don’t always want to offer rewards or incentives, because that could backfire on you in the future. You don’t want your employees to expect pats on the back or rewards for doing what they are supposed to be doing (even though frequent and genuine encouragement is still extremely important). Make sure the things you are publicly commending certain employees for doing are tasks or accomplishments that show initiative and a desire to rise above daily responsibilities.

Instead of offering expensive rewards or flashy incentives, you want to use their hard work as an opportunity for team development. Make sure to improve morale and let the actions of exceptional employees speak and shine for themselves.

Create mindfulness and compassion around physical and emotional limitations

Every one of us has a limit, a point where we are completely spent and cannot continue without health-related consequences. This can be emotionally, mentally, or physically (although they are all tied so it kind of just becomes one larger issue). But here’s the thing: each of us has different limits and varying capacities for different things. It may take someone a lot less time to reach their limit than another, and that is okay. It’s not an opportunity to compare or punish. It’s actually data you can use to help people understand different physical and emotional limitations.

Building and fostering an internal culture that’s mindful and compassionate about any kind of limitation is essential. In times of intense stress or strife (such as when an employee leaves and everyone realizes their workloads may have just doubled), this mindful, compassionate culture becomes unbelievably important. At the end of the day, you are a team. It is in everyone’s best interests to look out for one another.

Often, employees will endure or tolerate more than they can because they are terrified of what their managers or coworkers will say. Make it so that this fear isn’t a thing (or that the employee in question is reassured swiftly). Encourage kindness, understanding, and patience. It’s everything, and  be amazed at how much it’ll help those who need it.

Set the tone, and be proactive about change

Offer additional support to those who may be having a particularly hard time adjusting or tackling a bigger workload.

If your team is anticipating a transition, don’t panic. Remember that you set the tone. Remind your employees the importance of teamwork, and offer additional support to those who may be having a particularly hard time adjusting or tackling a bigger workload.

This is a situation that nearly every company goes through and must learn to navigate. If your organization has a high turnover, examine why. One of the reasons could be that the work is too much, and that there aren’t systems in place to help streamline processes and empower employees to step up and take initiative. If that’s the case for your business, be proactive about improvements and long-term change.

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