A project management office (PMO) can have peaks and troughs of activity – although it probably never feels exactly quiet at work! Almost inevitably, there will be times when your teammates can’t keep up, so we’re going to look at when to pick up the slack for your PMO colleagues.

In a perfect PMO, there will be exactly the right resources and skills to complete the services you offer. In reality, there will be times that some of your team can’t cope with the work they are doing, and this can be indicative of different issues within your PMO.

To help you understand whether you should help your colleagues and pick up the slack when they can’t cope, we’re going to look at:

  • The reasons why there is too much work to do in your PMO
  • Why your teammate may be struggling to complete their work
  • At what point should you step in and help pick up the slack

What causes too much work in a PMO?

A major element of your PMO work is planning the projects and the capacity needed to complete them. As the adage goes, best-laid plans always go to waste. Some of the reasons your PMO team could end up with too much work include:

  • Lots of projects starting or ending at the same time. Projects can run over – sometimes even under – schedule, and there can be lots of projects that need closing at the same time, or there can be more projects than you’d like starting at the same time.
  • End-of-year reporting comes around, and there is more data that needs analysing and presenting. While you know exactly when this will happen, it can still cause a backlog of work to get done.
  • Moving to a new PMO method or maturity model can increase workload. If you decide it’s time to evolve your PMO to a mature, optimising model, or you want to move from a compliance PMO to a business-focussed office, there will be more work generated in the short-term.
  • Changes in your resource capacity, such as a team member moving away from the PMO, getting promoted within the office, or someone changing their working patterns. This is usually short-term but can generate extra work.

When is it right to help a co-worker and pick up the slack?

When you see a co-worker in your PMO struggling with their workload, you need to understand why that’s happening. Generally, it’s linked to the above issues, but there are personal circumstances to consider.

Too much work

You’ll know from your own experience that sometimes you can just have too much work on your plate. If this happens for a co-worker and their productivity is the same, then it’s the right time to step in and offer support, as long as your priorities aren’t negatively affected.

Lacks the right skills

Due to inexperience or a lack of appropriate training, your colleagues can struggle to keep up with their workload. As a short-term fix, you can help them pick up the slack and ensure that the bigger picture of the skills gap is going to be taken care of.

Personal issues

It’s possible that a teammate is struggling at work due to personal issues. When these are short-term, picking up the slack is the compassionate thing to do. When the personal issues may be longer-term it should be referred to HR to bring in freelance cover or change working patterns, for example.

Being under-productive

Sometimes, your fellow worker can be overburdened at work because they aren’t doing their fair share of work. The PMO leader should have a clear understanding of the workload of each person they manage and will know the general capacity of the office. If someone is genuinely slacking, leaving them to go on a performance improvement plan or other measures is likely the right thing to do.

Picking up the slack for PMO colleagues

Working in a PMO, you’ll always be busy. Knowing when to pick up the slack for a PMO colleague or leave it for the higher leadership to deal with as a long-term issue is a decision you should make based on your own workload and the individual circumstances.