Is your support team encountering these 5 challenges? It could be a workload management problem (2023)

Support teams are more stretched than ever. As expectations grow and resources shrink, it’s easy for support teams’ workloads to feel unwieldy, and sometimes unmanageable.

For support managers balancing day-to-day support tasks, long-term strategic planning, and team development, it can be a struggle to give workload management the time and attention it deserves. However, devoting time to managing the nature and distribution of your team’s workload can help you to maximize strengths, minimize inefficiencies, and improve team morale. We’ve introduced a series of new workload management features to help you get there – but first, let’s dive further into the benefits of effective workload management for your team.

What is workload management?

What do we mean by workload management? The term covers the planning, strategizing, automation, and organization that goes into running a healthy, efficient support team. It’s largely invisible, behind-the-scenes work that tends to take up so much of support managers’ time – and yet it’s absolutely essential to offering an excellent customer experience.

Why is workload management important?

When you’re working on a small support team, workload management can take a casual form. Need someone to take on some of your conversations while you tackle a more complex query? Just message your teammates to find out who has capacity.

However, as your team and company scale, so does the need for a more structured approach to workload management. Here’s why:

  • Growing customer expectations: Over the course of 2022, 83% of customer support teams saw an increase in customer expectations of support. Customers want fast, personal, high-quality customer service, and customer service teams need to ensure they can rise to the challenge. That means maximizing efficiency across team processes.
  • Team morale: Burnout is a growing risk among support reps. In fact, more than half of support leaders say members of their teams have felt burned out in the past few months. Workload management is just part of the puzzle, but can go a long way towards ensuring your team members are taking on no more than they can handle by giving you more visibility into their workloads.
  • Team planning: Knowing exactly how much each of your team members can take on – and your team’s overall productivity level – is essential to team planning. Do you need to increase headcount? Can you find ways to work smarter with automation? Will you be ready for increased inbound volume after an announcement or feature launch? These are questions you need to answer to give your customers the experience they expect.
  • Team training: It’s important to ease in new team members and avoid overloading them from the jump. Without a robust workload management system, it can be almost impossible to control the volume and complexity of new hires’ customer conversations – resulting in an overwhelming experience for them and an underwhelming one for your customers.

Principles for workload management

Effective workload management needs to suit the workflows of your team, and be sturdy and reliable without introducing process for process’s sake. We believe that any workload management system should be:

  • Highly flexible: No two support teams are the same. Teammates should be able to control and tweak the various system settings to fit with their team’s goals and workflows.
  • Easy to set up and modify: Teammates need to review and revise their setup and resources allocation as they scale their team and react to unanticipated developments. Barriers to setup and modification become barriers to efficiency.
  • Predictable: Shift managers need to be able to easily understand the way their queues and conversations are being sorted by their workload management system. It helps to build trust in the setup and reduces the urge to manually prioritize and move conversations between teammates.

Workload management problems facing customer service teams – and how we’re solving them

Based on these principles, we’ve introduced a series of workload management features to our customer service platform to make life a whole lot easier for managers and their teams. Regardless of industry, customer support teams are facing many of the same problems. Not all can be solved by workload management, but many can be mitigated.

Problem: The system is painful to set up and maintain at scale

For teams that do take the steps to implement a workload management process, the upkeep can be a lot to maintain. If the maintenance of your system requires more time than the problem it’s built to solve, it’s not worth it.

Solution: Dedicated page for managing teammate workload

We’ve introduced a new “Teammates” tab to your Intercom workspace – a dedicated page where you can search, filter, and modify teammate configurations (such as team inboxes they are assigned to) in bulk and at an individual level.

Is your support team encountering these 5 challenges? It could be a workload management problem (1)

Problem: Critical conversations are not assigned first

Not all customer queries are created equal. If your team has no way to effectively prioritize conversations, you risk leaving urgent queries, or VIP customers, at the bottom of the queue.

Solution: Customer conversation prioritization

Define exactly how your Intercom workspace prioritizes and assigns conversations using a combination of the attributes that make the most sense for your business, such as conversation priority, SLA, “waiting since,” “started at,” and team inbox priority.

Is your support team encountering these 5 challenges? It could be a workload management problem (2)

“I would change the team inboxes’ priorities a few times every day, and I would check every few hours to see which inbox needed the most attention. I would change team members to different teams, etc. I haven’t touched it since this update, since it works just how I want it. This is so much better and also creates more peace and time for me.” – Maartje Daems, Customer Support Manager, Plug&Pay

Problem: Teammates forget to change their assignment limit when they are not available

It’s an incredibly easy thing to overlook, but has the potential to disrupt the team’s workflow for an entire day. That’s a lot of pressure on support reps who are just trying to take a lunch break.

Solution: Automatic away mode

Automatically set teammates to “Away” or “Away & Reassign” after they’ve been inactive for a set time. Ensure customers aren’t left waiting when a teammate goes inactive by automatically rerouting conversations to teammates who are ready to reply – even if the previous teammate forgets to update their status to “Away.’’

Problem: Teammates can’t have unique capacity limits

Every teammate has different strengths, experience, and areas for growth. Having equal capacity limits across the board doesn’t make sense for a high-functioning support team, and can end up causing stress to teammates and negatively impacting customer experience.

Solution: Teammate assignment limit

Override the workspace assignment limit and set different limits for each teammate, and increase efficiency by ensuring each teammate’s workload matches their skills and seniority.

Is your support team encountering these 5 challenges? It could be a workload management problem (3)

Problem: Teammates are underutilized

As your support org scales, your support reps may have to specialize their knowledge to suit specific team and customer needs. This ensures the right person is answering the right questions and maximizes the quality of responses – but it can result in teammates being underutilized. An example would be a multilingual team, where one person is managing the Spanish inbox. Once there are no open Spanish conversations left, how can the support rep continue to help customers?

Solution: Secondary team inboxes

For each teammate, define both their primary and secondary team inboxes based on their expertise. When all primary team inboxes are empty, the teammate starts receiving conversations from the secondary team inbox.

Is your support team encountering these 5 challenges? It could be a workload management problem (4)

“Secondary team inboxes are working wonderfully. This feature allows my first-line teams to have different focuses, like Team 1 having a Colombia focus and Team 2 having a Cuba focus. I plan to expand this to my second-line team as well, so one second-line agent can be primarily X-focused while another is primarily Y-focused.” – Francisco Canales, Head of Volume-Driven Operations, MAJORITY

If your team is encountering any of these problems, our new workload management features could help you uplevel team performance, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction. Find out some of the other ways you can supercharge your support.


What is the problem with workload management? ›

The most common issue relating to workload management is the concern that workloads are too high, but there could also be problems that arise from workloads being inconsistent, inequitably distributed or even too low.

How do you identify workload issues? ›

Top 5 workload management issues to look out for
  1. Employees complain about the volume of work. This sign can appear in two forms. ...
  2. Employees are not sure what to focus on. ...
  3. Deadlines are heavy on your team. ...
  4. Teams deliver results only under constant supervision. ...
  5. Some employees feel discriminated against.
Jun 20, 2022

How do you manage workload in a team? ›

Consider the following steps to improve your ability to manage a team's workload:
  1. Identify the workload contents. ...
  2. Prioritize projects and tasks. ...
  3. Understand the team's capability. ...
  4. Divide tasks into segments. ...
  5. Reallocate tasks.
Dec 2, 2022

How do you create an effective workload management process? ›

While each manager has their own preferred methods, here are 6 steps you should consider to create a winning workload management strategy.
  1. 1 – Check the current capacity and workload. ...
  2. 2 – Assign tasks by priorities and skills. ...
  3. 3 – Distinguish what can be good enough. ...
  4. 4 – Be ready to make changes and reassign.

What causes poor workload management? ›

What leads to workload struggles?
  • Managers assigning too much work.
  • Distracting, interruption-heavy work environment.
  • Lack of accommodations or support for neurodiverse workers.
  • Limited workplace flexibility for employees.
  • Not enough company resources to spread out the workload.

How does workload management affect the team? ›

Workload management helps you prioritize tasks more efficiently, improve the balance of work across your team, and create more accurate project schedules. As a result, your team has the capacity and confidence to deliver quality work. Workload management also: Prevents burnout.

What are the 5 steps of proper workload management? ›

The Five-Step Guide to Better Workload Management
  1. Find out your team's workload and capacity. ...
  2. Allocate tasks to your team. ...
  3. Prioritize and Plan. ...
  4. Enhance team efficiency in times of heavy workload. ...
  5. Monitor schedules and projects regularly.

How do you address workload issues at work? ›

6 Tips on Managing Workloads Effectively
  1. Take time to plan. Step back and look at the big picture. ...
  2. Don't be afraid to pivot. Even the best-laid plans can go awry. ...
  3. Accept your limitations. ...
  4. Play to your strengths and the strengths of your colleagues. ...
  5. Take time off. ...
  6. Speak truth to power.
Jul 26, 2022

What are three techniques for managing your workload? ›

There are three concepts that frequently come into play when I think about managing my workload: time management, prioritisation and productivity. Time management refers to how you plan and organise your activities around a certain timeframe.

How do you deal with an unbalanced workload in a team? ›

It's important to try to achieve an equal distribution of workload so that all employees are satisfied and engaged in their roles.
  1. Assess the Current Workload Situation. ...
  2. Review Your Business Goals and Priorities. ...
  3. Consider Each Team Member's Skill Sets. ...
  4. Check Each Team Member's Availability.

What is an example of a workload? ›

Examples of workloads are marketing websites, e-commerce websites, the back-ends for a mobile app, analytic platforms, etc. Workloads vary in levels of architectural complexity, from static websites to architectures with multiple data stores and many components.

How do you handle a heavy workload interview question? ›

In the case of managing a heavy workload, you'll want to have a strategy for answering it. You can say something like: “Everyone has faced a heavy workload at some point or another in their career. For me, being able to take a step back and observe the situation can give me greater clarity and objectivity.

How do you handle too much workload? ›

10 Top Tips to Manage a Heavy Workload
  1. Review your Routine and Habits: ...
  2. Don't read Emails on Demand: ...
  3. Turn your Phone off: ...
  4. Work from Home: ...
  5. Limit Your Time on Social Media: ...
  6. Manage Meetings: ...
  7. Block off time to Plan and Prepare: ...
  8. Work from a Prioritized 'To Do' List:

What are the challenges of heavy workload? ›

Mental health issues can result from a heavy workload: anxiety, depression and mood swings are all common effects of stress. You may even find yourself having trouble sleeping or concentrating on tasks at hand (at least until the end-of-day exhaustion kicks in).

How do you deal with low workload? ›

How to stay motivated when there's not enough to do at work
  1. Revisit paused projects. ...
  2. Ask your coworkers how you can help. ...
  3. Schedule a meeting with your manager. ...
  4. Spend time brainstorming. ...
  5. Take a break. ...
  6. Job shadow a coworker. ...
  7. Sign up for a training. ...
  8. Evaluate your role.
Feb 16, 2023

How does workload cause conflict in the workplace? ›

Increase in workload

Sometimes workplace conflict is caused because people feel they are being pushed too hard and resentment sets in if they feel their workload is unmanageable.

How do you manage a team with heavy workload? ›

How to manage a heavy workload
  1. Determine your priorities. ...
  2. Itemize your work responsibilities. ...
  3. Know your limits. ...
  4. Develop an organizational strategy. ...
  5. Take a break. ...
  6. Collaborate and communicate with your team. ...
  7. Focus on one thing at a time. ...
  8. Schedule your tasks.
Dec 9, 2022

What are the 4 D's of workload management? ›

The 4 Ds are: Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop). Placing a task or project into one of these categories helps you manage your limited time more effectively and stay focused on what matters most to you.

How do you manage your workload interview question and answer? ›

You might say this:

I work best when I have a daily to-do list. At the beginning of each workday, I write down the tasks that need to be done and rank them from highest to lowest priority. Not only does this help my workflow, but it also ensures that I am making progress on the most important tasks of the day.”

How do you manage stress and workload? ›

How to cope with stress at work
  1. Understand more about stress. Recognising the signs of stress and learning about the causes of stress is good place to start.
  2. Figure out what you find stressful and helpful. ...
  3. Learn different coping techniques. ...
  4. Try practising mindfulness. ...
  5. Look after your physical health.

How do you manage chaotic workload? ›

6 Essential Productivity Tips for Any Chaotic Work Schedule
  1. Schedule Your Day Around Your Breaks. ...
  2. Create a Structure That Works for You. ...
  3. Utilize To-Do Lists. ...
  4. Limit Social Media Usage in the Office. ...
  5. Create Manageable Personal Deadlines. ...
  6. Declutter Your Office Space.
May 15, 2019

How do you explain workload to a manager? ›

How to tell your boss your work is overwhelming
  1. Schedule a meeting with your boss. ...
  2. Prepare what you are going to say. ...
  3. Provide specific examples. ...
  4. Focus on your work experience. ...
  5. Offer thoughtful solutions. ...
  6. Offer to help in smaller ways. ...
  7. Consider your goals. ...
  8. Remain calm.
Jul 21, 2022

What are the two types of workload? ›

Types of workloads

A static workload is always on and running, such as an operating system (OS), email system, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and many other applications central to a business's operations. A dynamic workload is ephemeral and loads and runs only when needed.

What are the disadvantages of workload? ›

What is the problem with an increased workload?
  • Less productive.
  • Increased errors.
  • Poor work-life balance.
  • Risk of burn out.
  • Negative impact on health.
  • Higher levels of absence.
  • Understand the source of the stress.
  • Ensure clear priorities.

What is the negative impact of heavy workload? ›

If an employee is overworked, they're taking on—or being given—too much work. An overworked employee, rather than putting in their best and bringing in results, is tired, stressed, and risking burnout. An exhausted employee is also more prone to make mistakes, which is deadly in some environments.

What are the disadvantages of too much workload? ›

Too much work can be damaging to your mental and physical health. You're more likely to suffer from adverse health problems, including neck, back, or chest pain, stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and anxiety.

How does workload affect performance? ›

High workload can improve employee performance, but excessive workload can lead to decreased employee performance. This is because the employee's inability to complete the work caused by the capacity and ability of employees is not in accordance with the demands that must be done.

What factors causes heavy workload? ›

Some of the factors that commonly cause work-related stress include:
  • Long hours.
  • Heavy workload.
  • Changes within the organisation.
  • Tight deadlines.
  • Changes to duties.
  • Job insecurity.
  • Lack of autonomy.
  • Boring work.

What is the impact of overworked employees? ›

Overworked employees may have depression, turn to alcohol, have reduced sleep and memory, have diminished reasoning capability over time, and can even have increased chances for heart disease and diabetes.

What is workload risk? ›

Excessive workload is a hazard because it may lead to work-related stress, which in turn can lead to ill health, both physical and mental.

What is the impact of overworked staff? ›

Overworked employees can affect every area of your business. Here's how: Productivity can plummet when employees aren't able to get everything done. Quality deteriorates when employees can't take the time to do their jobs right.

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