Resource Loading In Project Management: What, Why, And How
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Resource Loading In Project Management: What, Why, And How

Post Author - Jitesh Patil Jitesh Patil Last Updated:

If you struggle to maximize your team’s utilization without overwork, you’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll learn how resource loading helps you achieve this seemingly impossible balance in project management.

It’s a simple process that helps you:

  • Forecast your team’s workload.
  • Set the right expectations with stakeholders.
  • Maintain team morale.

Ready to start? Let’s dive in.

What is resource loading?

Resource loading in project management is assigning work to team members based on their available hours in a specific period. Mathematically, it’s represented as the ratio of assigned work hours to the total hours available.

Resource loading ratio formula
Resource loading ratio formula

While finding the total assigned hours is easy, finding the available hours takes a little more work. To calculate available hours, you must consider initial capacity, ideal resource utilization, time off, and culture hours.

You’ll learn the steps for calculating resource loading below.

But, before that…

What is a resource-loaded schedule?

A resource-loaded schedule is a project schedule that helps you understand resource availability along with project tasks, estimates, and deadlines.

To create a project schedule with resource availability,

  1. Map the tasks on a project timeline.
  2. Add estimates to each task.
  3. And finally, allocate tasks to available resources.

Here’s an example of how a resource-loaded project timeline looks like in Toggl Plan.

Toggl Plan's Team Timeline helps you visualize your team's capacity, time off, and workload
Toggl Plan’s Team Timeline helps you visualize your team’s capacity, time off, and workload.

Other resource planning tools too come with similar features.

Why is resource loading essential in project management?

Project managers struggle to maximize the use of project resources while keeping the workload healthy. That’s where tracking your project’s resource load can help.

The benefits of resource loading are:

  • Accurately calculate (or visualize using a resource loading chart) resource availability to decide if you want to take up more work.
  • Visualize resource workload to spot under or over-allocation. Adjust to maximize utilization without burning out your team.
  • Use team resources to their full potential and avoid disengaged workers by preventing under-allocation.
  • Keep stakeholders informed and happy by setting realistic expectations of project success.
  • Consider employee availability to accommodate changes and stick to the project schedule.
  • Stay on top of your team’s workload to identify and plan for resource risks beforehand.

Resource loading vs. resource leveling

Resource loading and resource leveling are different resource management techniques applied in different situations. Both resource planning techniques, although different, help a project manager keep the project team’s workload healthy and deliver projects on time.

Here’s a table that summarizes the key differences between the two techniques.

Resource loadingResource leveling
Why?Optimize assignments based on available resourcesOptimize project timeline to prevent over/under allocation
What?Assign work based on available capacityAdjust resource allocation based on project priorities
WhenDuring the initial project planning phaseAfter you allocate resources to the project
Resource loading vs. Resource leveling

In summary, resource loading is done in the project planning stages to preempt resource risks. Whereas resource leveling is done after resource allocation to ensure that resource workloads are balanced.

How to calculate resource load?

To calculate resource load in project management,

  1. Find the assigned hours for a team member during a specific period.
  2. Find the available hours for the same team member during the same period.
  3. Calculate the ratio by dividing assigned hours by available hours.

Step 1: Find assigned hours

Before you find the assigned hours for a team member, you must:

  • Make a list of project tasks using the Work Breakdown Structure.
  • Estimate effort hours for each of the project tasks.
  • Assign each project task to a team member.

With these two steps done, you can easily find the assigned hours for a team member on a day, week, or month.

But sometimes, things become a little more complex.

As a project manager, you often share critical resources across multiple projects. For example, a graphic designer may work on multiple projects during the week. In such situations, consider resource assignments across all projects.

Toggl Plan's Team Timeline shows you color-coded, resource loading across multiple projects.
Toggl Plan’s Team Timeline shows you color-coded resource loading across multiple projects.

Step 2: Find available hours

To find the number of hours a resource is available for a project, you need the following:

  • Initial capacity: The number of work hours in a specific period. For example, in a 5-day work week at 8 hours per day, the initial capacity is 40 hours. If a team member is shared equally across two projects, the capacity is 20 hours.
  • Time off hours: These account for public holidays and vacations.
  • Culture hours: Besides project hours, team members often attend internal meetings, training, and other activities.
  • Available capacity: The hours left after removing time off and culture hours from the initial capacity.
  • Utilization rate: It’s unreasonable to expect people to work 100% of their available capacity. Unaccounted activities, from coffee breaks to work-related chats, eat into capacity hours. A good benchmark to aim for is 80% of the available capacity.

To get available hours, simply subtract the time off and culture hours from the initial capacity and then find the target utilization. Here’s an example:

MetricCalculationExample value
Initial Capacity (IC)5 days x 8 hours40 hours
Time off (TO)actual8 hours
Culture Hours (CH)actual2 hours
Available Capacity (AC)IC – TO – CH30 hours
Available Hours80% of AC24 hours
Resource loading example – calculate available hours

To keep things simple, you can also disregard time off and culture hours, as they happen once in a while. In such a case, your Available Hours will be calculated as 80% of your Initial Capacity.

Step 3: Calculate resource loading ratio

Finally, you can calculate resource loading ratio using the formula:

resource load = assigned hours / available hours

And, here’s what the result means:

Loading ratioDiagnosisImplication
< 1.0The resource is under-utilizedCan possibly take on more work
1.0The resource is optimally utilizedNo buffer room for emergencies
> 1.0The resource is over-utilizedCan result in stress and, eventually, burnout

How to make a resource loading chart?

Now you know how to calculate the resource loading ratio for one team member. But how do you do it for the entire team?

That’s where a resource loading chart can help.

What is a resource loading chart?

A resource loading chart is a graphical representation of the resource load across all critical resources.

It helps project managers understand if their project team is over, under, or optimally loaded. It also helps understand if the team can take up more work, such as last-minute change requests.

Free resource loading chart template

Resource loading chart template
Free resource loading matrix/chart template

Click here to “Make a copy” of our free Google Sheets template to start tracking your team’s resource load quickly.

Alternatively, you can create your own, by following the steps given below.

Step 1: Create a project resource vs project duration matrix

Resource loading matrix
Resource loading matrix

On the X-axis, plot periods spanning the entire project duration. These periods could be days, weeks, or months.

The Y-axis represents resources, such as the names of team members. Add the available hours for each resource in the adjacent cell on the spreadsheet.

Step 2: Add the assigned hours

The assigned hours can be found in your project management software or you can simply ask your team members to add the total estimated hours for each week in the spreadsheet.

Step 3: Compare assigned hours against available hours

Resource loading chart template
Custom formatted resource loading chart with color-coded available hours

Using the conditional formatting feature of Excel or Google Sheets, highlight the assigned hours for each resource. This helps you quickly visualize your team’s availability across the project duration, along with their workload.

Use resource loading in project management to stay on top of resource risks

Resource loading is a simple tool for a project manager to identify resource constraints and risks and keep both, your stakeholders and team members happy. Unlike resource leveling, this technique is applied early in the project planning phase to ensure optimum resource utilization.

In this article, you learned how to calculate resource loading ratio for an individual resource. You also learned how to use a resource loading chart to track resource loads throughout the duration of the project.

And if you’re looking for a simple, visual project and resource planning tool, give Toggl Plan a try.

Sign up for a free 14-day trial now.

Jitesh Patil

Jitesh is an SEO and content specialist. He manages content projects at Toggl and loves sharing actionable tips to deliver projects profitably.

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