Do More with Less: The 'New Normal' at Work
How to Handle a Heavier Workload and Still Get Ahead
By Robert DiGiacomo
For anyone fortunate enough to have a job in this economic downturn, the empty cubicles around you likely mean more responsibilities -- and a greater daily workload -- to cover for positions that have been cut or won't be filled anytime soon.
If you're being asked to do the work of two -- or more -- workers, here are five ways to cope with the extra items on your list, without losing your cool or your sense of well-being.
1. Ask the Right Questions
Even if your work plate is full already, you really shouldn't say no when the boss approaches you with additional duties, advises executive coach Peggy Klaus. Instead, engage your supervisor in a dialogue about the specifics of the situation, by asking questions about how long the new assignment will last and what will be expected.
"When we're in this fear mode, we have a very difficult time asking for those parameters, and they're really important," says Klaus, author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills. "It doesn't mean that you don't want to do [the work], or won't do it. But you need to have some structure around it."
2. Prioritize and Organize
Once you understand the scope of your expanded job description, ask your manager to help prioritize what must get done on a daily basis -- and which projects can be deferred -- and organize yourself accordingly, according to Paul Facella, CEO and president of Inside Management, a consulting firm.
"Clearly, in this situation, you have to prioritize -- you can't afford to waste time," says Facella, author of Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald's.
3. Be Your Own Publicist
Be sure to speak up, as you identify ways to streamline your department's practices or improve the overall efficiency of company operations.
"It's certainly not the time to be quiet and shy about anything you're contributing that you believe will be more cost-saving and efficient," Facella says. "Nobody wants a braggart, but the point is you keep [management] in the loop."
4. Learning from the Experience
Volunteering to take a course to boost certain skills or gain a specialized certification can both ease your ability to complete unfamiliar chores and demonstrate your commitment to your company's stability. The new skills set also will help if you're part of the next round of job cuts.
"This economic environment clearly is going to be here for a few years," Facella says. "The more prepared you are, the better off you are."
5. Take a Break
As you find yourself logging much longer hours, you need to take more -- not fewer -- breaks. Every 90 minutes or so, you should at least get up from your desk and stretch. Or better yet, take a 10-minute walk, shoot some hoops or grab coffee with a friend.
"We tend to think we have to be chained to our desks for 11 hours a day," Klaus says. "It's a self-care issue. We have to get up and take a break."
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