Managing workloads, tasks and break planning

Managing workloads

If you are struggling to manage more complex problem solving; background noise and small distractions might quickly drain your energy levels and make you much less productive. Finding a quiet space to work in, or allowing home working, is likely to help. This might relate to all of your work- or just for more demanding tasks. 

When you first return to work, in the initial stages, you should try to allocate work that will allow you to maintain an element of control, and where there is a degree of predictability. This will allow you to implement symptom management strategies and ensure that you do not take on more than you are capable of. 

Planning hours and shifts

Starting off with shorter working days will allow you to gradually increase your stamina to work-related tasks. Even if your role is not physically challenging- the cognitive and emotional demands of a working day are likely to be difficult.

When you first return to work, it is normal for you to experience an extended recovery as you adapt and adjust. Working non-consecutive days allows time for recovery and is likely to maximise efficiency during each shift. 

Poor sleep quality can significantly affect your level of energy and ability to complete work tasks. If you were is struggling with sleep, consider whether early shifts, and night shifts, should be avoided as you ease back in. 

A shift pattern which allows you to keep to a reasonably consistent routine might also help.


Frequent breaks are likely to be beneficial in almost every case. Breaks allow for a short periods of restoration- which can help you  to manage fatigue, pain and anxiety. It will mean that your overall recovery time after the shift is shorter, and you are likely to be more productive at work- especially towards the end of your working day. It is important to continue to allow breaks when the staff member returns to consecutive days. 

Breaks can be at fixed points during the day, you might need a short break where you can sit and rest. Others might be able to continue to work- but need to do so in sitting. Some staff might need time to complete stretches or breathing exercises. The point of a break is to allow the staff member to feel more energized- and this is likely to mean different things to different people.

For those managing post-viral fatigue, a balance between activity and rest is required for effective pacing.

Managing difficult tasks

There are likely to be certain tasks that are more challenging than others.

These are likely to include:

  • Moderate to heavy lifting and/or repetitive lifting 
  • Elements of manual handling 
  • Spending prolonged periods of time walking or standing 
  • Moving at a very fast pace 
  • Lots of talking – face to face or on the phone
  • Sustained periods of concentration or very frequent task switching 
  • Being in very busy environments 

Consider how you could initially minimise or remove exposure to these tasks. Doing so may improve your overall endurance to work; support recovery and reduce the risk of additional sickness absence.

Salford Royal and Leeds Partnership NHS Trusts Resource Menu