Ask Jean

Dear Jean, what do I do if I can’t keep up with my workload?

The first thing to know is that not being able to keep up with your workload doesn’t mean that you are a bad or slow employee. CMG members are generally incredibly dedicated, hard-working people. Overwork sometimes means that you need more tools or training, but in most cases, it simply means that you’ve been given too many tasks and too little time.

While each of our Collective Agreements has different language around workload, many of the strategies for dealing with it do not change. Generally, the first step is to think about whether the workload problem is an individual one or it affects multiple people in your group or unit. If you’re not the only one, it is easier to address the problem as a team. If everyone in your area is skipping all of their breaks and staying two hours every day, addressing the problem by yourself is probably not the most effective strategy. If everyone– or at least the majority in your unit– is overworked, there’s nowhere for your extra work to go.

After you figure out the scope of the problem, you should document what your workload looks like on a typical day or week. Make sure you write everything down, including the little things and things that are not a formal part of your workload. If you are the person that your colleagues turn to when they don’t understand something about a new piece of software, write it down. That time is time you spend working, and if you don’t do it, someone else will have to.

The next step is to talk to your supervisor. You can do this while you’re documenting, if you like. Make sure you explain the scope of the problem if this affects everyone in your area. If you want backup, you can contact your local union rep. She or he will be happy to help you strategize beforehand and may also be able to assist you in the meeting itself. You should also get in touch with the union if you raise the issue and nothing happens. Remember that workload is a problem that can have all kinds of creative solutions. Sometimes training, better tools, or new technology can help solve the problem. In some cases, work just needs to be distributed better. Assigning or hiring additional people to the unit can be a solution. Or maybe expectations just have to be lowered. There has to be a limit to doing more with less.

Our Collective Agreements have provisions for things like meal breaks and coffee breaks because the employer and the union both agree that an overstressed workforce is not a healthy, productive workforce. Take care of yourself

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