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Avoiding Overcommitment: Managing Your Workload | #ICMIchat Rundown (March 31, 2020)

Person adding a sticky note to a day planner.

Now more than ever, professionals are struggling to balance unexpected demands with day-to-day operations. Surprises are around every corner, making it harder and harder to keep promises to our stakeholders and ourselves. This week, we asked contact center and customer experience professionals how they manage it all. We also honed in on how persistent overload can negatively affect organizational culture and some steps to prevent adverse effects.

This #ICMIchat Rundown is sponsored by NICE inContact. Join us next Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific, when NICE inContact co-hosts the discussion about Boosting Employee Engagement. Take a moment to register for their webinar on April 15. A preview of the questions follows this article.

Organizing Your Work

When we asked the community how they organize the work to be done, there was a fantastic mix of old-school methods and new technology. The hand-written checklist and, along with its more composed counterpart, the day planner are still beloved in 2020. There was more than one shout-out to Asana as the task manager of choice, with multiple participants commenting on how it helps them collaborate with their team. Also of note, several commentators suggested using shared calendars both at work and at home to track out commitments to others.

I need a handwritten to-do list every day in an old-school wired project notebook. I don't feel like I'm getting anything done unless I'm legit checking stuff off a list. I like looking back at old, completed lists.

I’m a day planner user, the more I’m in there the better I am. Daily recurring tasks plus projects , if I have a bad week I typically can look back and see I haven’t been checking in on those items I need to be checking in on.

I don't know what on earth I'd do with @asana. I love having absolute clarity on the 19 things I have to finish today. I also hate having absolute clarity on the 19 things I have to finish today.

Right-Sizing Your Workload

Most of our professionals don't have a specific calculation for how much work is too much, but many of them noted that it's time to pump the brakes when you don't have time for the important people in your life. We also discussed that, while working from home recovers some lost productivity commuting, it's vital to set boundaries and not to become work-obsessed. It was also noted that there's a difference between work you're truly passionate about and work that is a necessary evil.

wfh has changed how a lot of leaders approach time management. I’ve spoken to many that actually work more since commute times are shorter but I worry that burnout will happen. Especially as quarantines extend

It's not just about volume of work IMO. It's about the type of work on the to-do list. Work you don't enjoy will stress you out just as much as a too-long to-do list of work you only sort of like.

When you work 9 hours straight without breaking, you're too productive. When employees are always frustrated and short, there's probably a high risk of burn out.

Causes of Overcommitment

As service professionals, our natural inclination to say "yes" sometimes leads us to promise too much of our time. A few participants noted that they commit too much of their personal time towards extracurricular activities to drive the industry forward. In contrast, others suggested their desire to please their teammates and managers leads them to overcommit. Nights and weekends aren't free, like a 1990's cell phone plan! Another potential cause of overcommitment is discontentment. When we're not achieving professional fulfillment in our day job, it's natural to seek that fulfillment outside of work.

For me it's saying yes to too many activities on weekends and evenings. I protect that time for rest and family.

fornme it goes back to being an Army Brat: we never turned down a challenge and in small communities overseas it was too easy to get involved everywhere. You never wanted to let the Boss (parent or commanding officer) down by saying no

If you are overextending yourself might be an indication you are not delegating enough work out to the rest of the teams and a good time to look at process efficiencies.

Imposter syndrome comes to mind. If I don't feel adequate I will work harder and harder and harder.

Quality Versus Quantity

Our contact center professionals unanimously agreed that committing to too much work degrades the quality of our output. Self-care isn't necessarily selfish when we're safeguarding our ability to deliver on prior commitments.

Overextending definitely exists and will eventually create problems. Quality > Quantity every time.

Everything grinds to a halt. Rest, exercise, nutrition, healthy relationships are all required to give my best at work.

It's like exercising - you cannot expect to do a thousand reps of weightlifting in one evening and expect to walk out with strong muscle. Overextending is never, never good. It needs to be paced out! You cannot burn yourself out.

Commit To Your Health

Research shows that stress, worry, and anger are on the rise. Ironically, the current pandemic has caused even more of those at a time when we need our peace the most. Being overwhelmed and overworked has serious health consequences, and it can negatively affect your relationships, too.

From experience: if you let it, overcommitment will rob you of the mental capacity to make good choices with diet and fitness. Let's just say if I could go back and change some things, I would have closed the laptop for an hour and just danced.

I was sitting here about an hour ago thinking I need a day off. Workload has tripled, go home to a wife and daughter who are stuck together in a house for three weeks so far. I’m kinda shocked I still have a child every afternoon. :)

Now you're just trolling us, @ndytg! I think this is what should concern managers the most - we worked long, stressful days to move everyone home and everyone is a little shellshocked and tired. And now... the real marathon starts. #peoplefirst

Long periods of time being overworked and overcommitted will negatively and severely impact your health. You must take time to get re-energize and get refreshed.

Culture In Crisis

We asked our customer management practitioners how persistent overload can affect workplace culture. They shared that workplace culture can both be degraded by overwork and that it can become a vicious competitive cycle. It was noted that, particularly in small businesses, some team members might be (literally) more invested in others because they have more potential upside.

A routine of overcommitment & overwork affects workplace culture because it causes a kind of overwork #machismo & #braggadocio. "I worked 60 hours this week." "Slacker! I worked 80!"

Have you ever had one of those “we expect 60 hours per week” jobs? Ugh. That is great if you are working for yourself, but having a CEO/Owner who thinks everyone should be as invested as they are is tough.

[Jeremy Watkin] and I used to work for a VP that would send email messages at 10 pm at night and then tell us not to worry about replying. Right! The message has to come from the top. Great teams agree to rest, play, and recharge.

Remote Responsibilities

As workers suddenly adapt to working from home, we wanted to know if remote workers are more susceptible to overwork and overcommitment. While working from home is generally accepted as a boon, our participants agreed that the risk of overworking is very real. Many have taken measures to limit their exposure to work activities during their free time, including leaving work-related materials in their dedicate office space. Managers also commented that working from home makes it more challenging to monitor how you're employees may be responding to stress.

Working remotely can be a double-edged sword. Work creep is a thing. Sure, you get your commute time back to get other stuff done, but you've also got to be careful about popping that laptop open when you really shouldn't.

For me the biggest problem is not being able to see who is dragging throughout the day. It is easy to put on a happy face during a video conference but harder to do when you see the person throughout the day.

You definitely need to know when to step away from the computer. I'm really trying to stop glancing at my phone. I've been leaving it at my desk certain nights and weekends so I'm more fully present with my family.

Finding a WFH system that works for me took a couple of days, but I'm definitely back in the gist of it all!

Preventing Burnout

When it comes to helping your employees avoid overcommitment and manage their workload, our leaders agreed that it's essential to have conversations with direct reports and stakeholders early and often. If you wait until an employee reaches their breaking point, it may be too late to step in and assist. Routine, candid conversations about workload are crucial to long term health and retention.

Leaders should regularly ask abt a direct report's workload, so when concerns arise, the employee will be accustomed to talking about the topic. Like asking your kids if anyone was drinking at the party. You gotta keep asking so the question becomes commonplace.

This is where good relationships pay off! Candid, connected conversations are an important part of making sure your employees are honest about their concerns and feel they can openly discuss their workload challenges.

This is a topic leaders need to proactively address versus waiting for their employees to bring it up. How is your workload? Are you enjoying the things you get to work on currently? How can I help?

Not to brag, but my boss asks and listens to my answer. I'm grateful that's my current situation.

#ICMIchat April 7, 2020
Boosting Employee Engagement

NICE inContact

We're thrilled to welcome NICE inContact as our special cohost for April 7, 2020. The NICE inContact team will lead us in an exciting discussion about employee engagement and agent experience, in preparation for their April 15 webinar.

Be sure to register for the webinar now, and then mark your calendar to join us for a lively discussion next Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific.

Q1: Why is consistency important to customer experience?

Q2: How does remote agent engagement affect service consistency?

Q3: What are some strategies for engaging agents while working from home?

Q4: What is the best way to measure agent engagement?

Q5: Do metrics and performance goals affect agent engagement?

Q6: How should leaders go about setting goals for agents and contact center teams?

Q7: When it comes to rewarding agents, what works and what doesn't?

Q8: What are some of the challenges motivating, engaging, and rewarding a remote workforce?