A strategy of loading workers to the max keeps output high and is great for productivity; the downside is that no matter how hard employees work at juggling multiple assignments, they are always playing catch-up, on the borderline of failure. Maximum output is optimal for profitability but can be dangerous for the mental and physical health of stressed-out workers; they have to play the "guess the new priority game" and get run around like the proverbial headless chicken. In this scenario we need to become our own advocates, work smarter and become more flexible to deal with the overload.
The rule of This and That states: if you do This, you can not be doing That, and if you do That, you can not be doing This. It brings us to a difference in outlook, a fundamental difference in perspective; management wants everything, both this and that, and the employees want this or that. Employees will do this, but are hounded by supervisors because that is not getting done. Experienced employees on the other hand, tend to interpret the irrefutable rule as doing only this or that, as is written in a job description, and not one thing more.
Current economic pressures are forcing businesses to rethink they way they work; managers ask employees to adapt as well. Obviously, a compromise has to be reached between the two perspectives, a win-win solution reached, a balanced perspective where the company gets what it needs to remain viable, and the employees are not worked to exhaustion. Management has to look at the internal cost of profits, and ask whether an employee's effort is sustainable over the long run.
Maintaining this delicate balance is a constant challenge for the mid-level supervisor dancing on the razors edge, the fulcrum point between managements plan and employees willingness to go the extra mile. The trick is to see it as two valid perspectives, a question of managing the two polarities, neither of which is going to ever go away. The challenge for us as individuals is to find what combination of work and play keep our output and morale as high as possible. We want to find the best balance for our situation, develop attitudes and behaviors that work for us, not work to meet the company needs and ignore our own. To do this we have to know ourselves, know the difference between a healthy challenge and a bottomless stress trap.
The next time you find yourself getting frustrated with work overload, if may be because you are trying to do this and that– take a mini-break and do some relaxation exercises. If you can relax and focus on this, that will take care of itself.