Balanced Workload Contributes to Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

Communicating with workers and planning for increased work are just small steps a business can take to keep crews happy

Balanced Workload Contributes to Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

Crew members from Express Sewer & Drain work on a relining project in California. Owner Bill Heinselman says while overtime is expected, employees should still be told of it in advance.

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Smart business owners know that their employees are their best asset. How do you know if you’re asking too much of this precious and oftentimes hard-to-replace resource?

Developing a well-balanced workload is the key to keeping employees busy and motivated without overwhelming them, says Joey Kolasinsky, human resource manager of Encore Electric in Denver.

“Employees become inspired and maintain that inspiration by meaningful work, being part of a team that values their contribution, and by continuing to expand their skill sets,” Kolasinsky says.

A crew from B&T Drainage of Marshall, Illinois, works on a project putting in a new waterline. B&T Drainage's Chase Boyer says the key to a happy crew is making sure you have the right number of crew members on a job site.
A crew from B&T Drainage of Marshall, Illinois, works on a project putting in a new waterline. B&T Drainage's Chase Boyer says the key to a happy crew is making sure you have the right number of crew members on a job site.

Getting the Number Right

Knowing how many employees are needed for a particular job is something you get a feel for over time, says Chase Boyer, of B&T Drainage in Marshall, Illinois.

“If you have too many men, everyone will be standing around and talking more than actually getting stuff done,” Boyer says. “But at the same time, you want to have enough people there that no one’s being overworked and you have enough people to be productive.”

The management structure of B&T Drainage is different than other companies, with each crew being led by a family member. Chase’s dad, John Boyer; his uncles, Steve and Scott Boyer; and his brother, Colby Boyer, all work in the trenches.

“We’re there on a daily basis, and we see what we need to do to be more productive,” Boyer says. “If we’re struggling in a certain area, we might need another piece of equipment there or need more help.”

Hiring on more workers to match demand requires careful consideration.

“We could use a few more guys here and there, but it’s just tough,” Boyer says. “We don’t like bringing guys on and having them for one job, which may last a month or two, and then laying them off. We try to keep our group of guys and ride that out throughout the year.”

Planning for Overtime

There’s no denying that workers in this industry can put in some long days.

“It’s common to have overtime in our line of work,” says Bill Heinselman, president and owner of Express Sewer & Drain in Rancho Cordova, California. When overtime is required, it’s important to let employees know in advance — for instance, if a 12-hour day is coming, he says. Communication is the key, especially if workers have children to pick up after work or other obligations to rearrange if they’ll be working late.

To avoid employee burnout, Express Sewer & Drain has a large enough staff to make overtime optional. Those looking for extra hours can volunteer to stay on the job.

The crew at B&T Drainage normally works an 8-hour day but puts in extra time when the situation calls for it.

“If there’s something that needs to be done by the end of the day or you don’t have a good place to stop, we don’t mind working over a little bit,” Boyer says. “We’re out there working with our guys, so we know that if we don’t want to stay late, they don’t want to stay late either.”

And after a big project is complete, a little “thank you” goes a long way. “We’ll take them out to a nice steak dinner or give them tickets to a sporting event,” Heinselman says. “We do that regularly. It’s really good for employee morale.”

Becoming Flexible

Another way to balance workload is to train employees to cover several roles, thus creating a flexible workforce in which employees are capable of filling in for each other. Cross-training is especially beneficial for projects that are extremely tough or physically demanding.

On these types of projects, Heinselman recommends monitoring employees closely and providing them with frequent breaks by rotating workers regularly. It might be necessary to add an extra shift in order to distribute the workload and complete the job.

Cross-training has an added benefit of allowing employees to enjoy their time off, knowing that someone can cover for them. “Being a valued specialist on the team can be balanced with having someone that can step in when life happens,” Kolasinsky says.

Through the cross-training process, employees might even devise better ways of doing things as they learn their new roles and offer feedback. “It is also a nice way to understand the shoes that others are walking in,” Kolasinsky says.

Open Communication

If you don’t know how employees feel about their workload, ask them. Ongoing conversations will create a clear understanding of workload demands and uncover imbalances between teams or individuals.

“Allowing employees to be actively engaged in how their work is measured, how they are feeling about the workload, areas they are interested in learning, and having well-rounded skills and knowledge is extremely important to developing and maintaining a culture and company in which people want to continue to come back to,” Kolasinsky says.


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