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Ways to lighten their load

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With fewer people doing more work, here are three ways to ease the workload:

1. Give people choices. When Thomas French, head of an architectural firm in Virginia, told his five-person staff they’d have to cut back to 32-hour weeks, they felt deflated but not distraught because “no one was thrown off the roof.” Plus, he gave them a choice between taking those eight hours as a day off or as shorter days.

2. Help them prioritize. “Bosses are really loath to do this” and employees are afraid to ask, says Mary Abbajay, a partner at CareerStone Group, a professional development company in Washington, D.C. That’s because everybody wants to accomplish everything. Trouble is that’s impossible. Lay out in detail for employees what’s most important, what can wait and what can be dropped, at least for now.

3. Don’t overload star performers. This is always good advice. Specifically, the temptation is to pack more work on the diligent ones you know will get it done, while avoiding the slackers and incompetents. If you do, you’ll just burn out the good ones. Now is the time to ride herd on marginal employees. If they can’t cut it, show them the door. There’s a treasure trove of talented, unemployed people out there right now who would be happy for the work.

— Adapted from “Sharing the Load,” Jennifer Nycz-Conner, Business Journals, www.bizjournals.com

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