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Workload analysis: Definition + step-by-step process

A workload analysis uses real-time data to help you understand how agents are spending their time to increase your support team’s productivity while maintaining their well-being.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated April 23, 2024

What is a workload analysis?

Workload analysis involves a methodical examination and allocation of various tasks and assignments among staff members to strike a balance that promotes efficiency, ensures a high standard of work, and maintains a happy workforce. In the world of customer service, this involves identifying how much of an agent’s time is spent on support-related activities compared to non-support activities, allocating agents across channels effectively, and tracking their performance to meet service level targets.

Weightlifting is all about balance and control. A weightlifter needs to be strong, but they’ll never succeed if they can’t control their muscles or have an imbalanced barbell. A barbell is nearly impossible to lift if it’s loaded up with 400 pounds on one side and 55 pounds on the other.

Workforce management without workload analysis can feel a lot like hitting an impossible weightlifting goal. And similar to an overloaded barbell, overutilized employees can get weighed down with too many tasks, preventing them from excelling. Assigning tasks and workloads without analyzing resources can fall victim to budgeting issues and employee burnout. Learn how to balance workloads and optimize resource and employee utilization with our guide.

More in this guide:

The importance of workload analysis

Managers can’t go around assigning shifts or tasks to whomever they choose. Instead, they must use workforce management metrics to recognize workload gaps and identify team members with the time and skills needed to complete specific activities. In turn, a successful workload analysis can positively impact the employee experience (EX) and provide various other advantages.

For customer service teams, workload analysis helps you to accurately create staffing plans by understanding what activities your team is spending their time on. Additionally, it can help to shine a light on areas where there are opportunities for improvement, such as lowering support costs by increasing occupancy rate.

Five icons represent the five benefits of workload analysis, including optimizing resource allocation and reducing expenses.

Optimizes resource allocation

Workload analysis gives organizations a broad picture of where staff, time, and budget are allocated. This transparency allows teams to identify areas of over- or underutilization in real time and consider reallocating resources where they are needed most. Correct resource allocation also impacts productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall performance.

Balances workloads

Much like resource allocation, workload analysis allows for balanced workloads. Real-time analysis can paint a clear picture of employee utilization rates and identify departments or teams that require more support. Businesses can use this information to make data-driven decisions that can decrease employee overtime, improve efficiency, and impact employee engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Allows for forecasting and planning

Workload analysis is an essential component of strategic workforce planning, equipping organizations with crucial insights to anticipate future staffing requirements. By analyzing patterns of seasonality, along with potential disruptions such as injuries or illnesses, businesses can proactively plan for the unexpected. This foresight enables agile adjustments that align with evolving business objectives, customer demands, and employee well-being, ensuring a balanced workload and uninterrupted operations.

Improves employee well-being

An unbalanced workload almost guarantees employee burnout, stress, fatigue, and frustration. A workload analysis can help managers identify problematic schedules and implement changes, helping them protect employee well-being. Balanced workloads also improve morale and satisfaction, which have a direct impact on employee retention.

Reduces expenses

Both over- and under-scheduling employees can lead to a barrage of budget issues. An accurate workload analysis can highlight incorrect resource allocation, overworked employees or overstaffed events, and missed or late deliveries. Once they have this information, organizations can resolve budgetary issues, saving time and money. Plus, analyzing an organization’s workload allows teams to create and stick to more accurate budgets.

How to conduct a workload analysis

If you can’t balance organizational workloads, it doesn’t matter how many productivity tips or employee perks you offer your support agents. A comprehensive workload analysis can be conducted in six steps, efficiently identifying and resolving resource gaps and misuse.

A painter in purple overalls holding a palette represents the six-step workload analysis process.

1. Identify all tasks and projects

Before allocating resources, you need to know what tasks and projects your agents are responsible for. Start by creating a list of responsibilities each role and department needs to accomplish. This list should include everything from daily tasks to infrequent, significant events. At this stage, teams must identify ongoing initiatives and upcoming projects to account for current and future resource needs.

2. Determine scope

Once you’ve identified your tasks and projects, determine the scope of each. This may seem daunting, but it’s vital for accurately forecasting team and resource needs. In your measurements, account for the time, budget, and people needed to complete all major and minor preparation, coordination, and follow-up tasks.

3. Inspect allocation and utilization

Utilization is the amount of an employee’s available time that’s used for productive work. In customer service, utilization helps you to understand how much of an agent’s time is spent on support-related activities compared to non-support activities within their paid time.

Take a look at your current resource allocation and team utilization. Optimized allocation can lead to more efficient customer service and operations, while disorganized tasks and activities have the opposite effect.

Ask yourself:

  • How and where are my employees currently being distributed?

  • How and where is the majority of my budget allocated?

  • What equipment is being under- or overutilized?

  • What tasks are we spending the most time on?

  • Where are resource constraints affecting timelines?

Your current tasks may not meet (or extend beyond) your scope of work, so you may need to adjust tasks or budgets based on your findings. This should be a continual process, even after you conduct your initial workload analysis.

4. Set a budget

During the inspection stage, you should be able to identify specific, task-based needs. To meet these needs, set budget standards for your teams to follow.

A workload analysis budget should focus on two factors:

  • Resources: the amount of time, people, or physical assets required to correctly complete a task
  • Finances: the amount of money required for the resources needed to complete tasks

A budget should also be task-specific, which allows teams to request monetary support, assets, and people based on changing needs. It’s important to note that budgets are estimates used to get a task or work initiative off the ground, but you should never treat them as fixed metrics.

5. Make workload and resource adjustments

Use your inspection and budget findings to redistribute resources, adjust schedules, and map out individually balanced workloads. Regularly adjust team schedules, budgets, and resource allocation as teams are assigned and complete tasks. This step of the workload analysis process depends on continuous data collection and reflection.

6. Monitor progress

Even with a comprehensive workload analysis, resource and budget use can fluctuate throughout a project’s timeline. Monitor your workload changes by asking for employee and customer feedback and discussing the challenges of under- and over-allocation. Consider tweaking workloads based on regular feedback, budget and resource use, and completion timeframe.

Learn how Zendesk WFM can help with workload analysis for customer service

Lower overstaffing costs, manage customer service teams of all sizes, and drive efficiency across your support organization with our AI-powered WFM solution.

Workload analysis example

Peek is an online booking platform for tours and activities. The software covers 42 verticals, from travel operators to kayak rentals to helicopter tours and everything in between. When Erik Jansen, support team supervisor at Peek, first joined the company, he knew they needed to change how they approached workload analysis.

“But when I came over, [five] years ago, all of our WFM was done just on spreadsheets. It was so disorganized. It took so long and nothing was predicting anything for us. It was just a hassle. I hated doing WFM—it was just so tedious and all these spreadsheets!” said Jansen.

After doing research, Jansen and the Peek team decided to partner with Zendesk WFM (previously Tymeshift). Since the beginning of the partnership, Zendesk has helped them with staffing and forecasting, agent development, comprehensive scheduling, and more.

Jansen said, “I used to do about 15 hours of WFM before Tymeshift. I think that I really got it down to maybe an hour a day.”

Learn more about Peek’s experience with Zendesk WFM

Best practices for effective workload analysis

A workload analysis is only as strong as an organization’s practices. Use a workforce planning template and follow these analysis best practices to effectively manage workloads and allocate resources.

Five icons represent the top five tips for analyzing workloads, including using AI and collecting accurate data.

Collect accurate data

Data accuracy matters, especially when you’re using it for budgeting purposes and utilizing information. According to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2024, roughly 56 percent of leaders report that it’s challenging to operate efficiently when employee experience data and tools are siloed. Organizations with real-time tracking and transparent data collection can make more informed decisions about workloads and prioritize EX.

Track employee performance

The best way to identify areas for improvement is by tracking employee performance. Data-driven insights, gathered from sources like quality assurance software, allow organizations to make effective workforce decisions. Plus, employee performance data can provide helpful insights into real-time business performance and workforce needs.

Involve employees

Workforce management and workload analysis affect one group more than any other: employees. You can gain valuable, first-hand insights into resource needs and employee utilization trends by involving your teams in the workload analysis process. Employee participation is essential after identifying areas for improvement, but their early involvement and input about daily activities, difficult tasks, and real-time inefficiencies can drastically affect workload adjustments.

Use AI

According to our EX Trends Report, 44 percent of leaders acknowledge increased productivity and output after providing employees with AI tools. Arming teams with AI-powered WFM software can help reducing time spent on workload analysis.

With Zendesk WFM, for example, you can use AI to automatically create staffing forecasts that factor in customer demand to let you know how many agents you need and where you need them. From there, you can engage in automatic scheduling that can help you create the perfect schedule in seconds that accounts for breaks, lunches, and recurring tasks.

Regularly review and adjust schedules

Workload analysis isn’t a one-time action—it’s a perpetual process of improvement. After creating your schedules and workflows, ensure that you’re monitoring them regularly to ensure they are going as intended. You may find that a department or group of employees needs more resources than originally planned, or you may uncover an opportunity for improvement in real time.

Frequently asked questions

Embrace customer service workload analysis with Zendesk WFM

Unbalanced workloads can cause customer pain points and agent dissatisfaction. A comprehensive workload analysis gives businesses a starting point for evaluating and reorganizing task management. To help you do this, you need workforce management software.

Zendesk offers comprehensive WFM software for customer service teams that are already using Zendesk. With features like predictive AI-powered forecasting, automatic scheduling, real-time tracking, and more, you can ensure your organization is as productive as possible.

Contact Zendesk sales for a free trial or demo.

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