There are several reasons as to why a company should be sufficiently staffed. Some companies will have higher turnover rates, so there will undoubtedly be times when the workload increases (especially when you account for staff on annual leave or of off work unwell). However, having an inadequate staff level for an extended period of time is not only a poor reflection on the company, but it is bad for existing employees as well. Whilst a temporary understaffing problem will not usually cause long-term issues, if an organisation has been dealing with (or rather, trying to deal with) understaffing for a continuous period, it can cause significant issues.
Being both overworked and understaffed can often lead to an increase in human errors. It’s only natural: you are working harder, so your stress levels have risen, so you are sleeping less, so you are then having to do more work with less energy and, inevitably, you make mistakes. Having to deal with errors that could so easily have been avoided from situations that have a very clear remedy is not something that any company enjoys having to deal with. This also creates something of a vicious circle: lack of staff leads to an increase in workload, which in turn leads to an increase in errors. Rectifying these errors is another task that then must be completed, so the workload again increases. The errors therefore increase, and so it goes on.
Having a heavier burden than one is used too, or being continually stressed because of a workload that is too large to handle can often lead to a decrease in morale amongst employees. This can also often give them a more negative image and opinion about the company: who could honestly say that they want to come into work, day after day, and never be able to get all of their work done in time and correctly with severely minimal help? Sometimes, a bit of added stress or pressure can be motivational and push you to test your abilities, but nobody wants this all day, every day! Low morale is (obviously) not good for a company.
Stress on Workers
Similarly, low staffing levels often go hand in hand with high stress levels amongst the staff you do have. There is the danger that this could be reflected back to your customers as well, as people as far more likely to be irritable (whether consciously or not) and provide a lower level of customer service when they are stressed. Constant stress can also have a negative effect on your health and lead to loss of sleep and exhaustion, lack of concentration, a change in appetite, moodiness and, in some cases, depression. These factors will then, naturally, lead to employees needing to take time off of work to regain health, which then creates even more issues. If employees are stressed, their health with inevitably be impacted.
Completion of assignments and tasks is something that is essential to keep a business running smoothly. It is an employee’s first responsibility to manage their own workload, but this is increasingly difficult if their workload is proportionally larger because of understaffing.
Another common side effect of an understaffed company is that the staff they do have will struggle to achieve their goals and targets, if at all. Even if employees are prepared to shoulder the weight of additional responsibilities and an increased workload, their ability to achieve goals will undoubtedly decrease in line with doing so. It says nothing of their competency: it is extremely difficult for people to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities simultaneously whilst still reaching targets that were made before these factors were taken into consideration.
As if errors, low morale, declining customer service and high stress levels are not bad enough, in some cases understaffing can lead to resignations. Staff members that have to continuously deal with the burden of a heavy workload due to inadequate staffing levels will often reach a point where they feel that seeking employment elsewhere is their only option.
Unfortunately, for some companies, hiring additional full-time workers is not always an option. However, if you can hire more staff and are just having difficulties finding the right people, try reconsidering your approach:
- Rewrite your advert, look for applicants in different places or ask for internal referrals.
- If you are not in a position where you can consider taking on more staff, see if hiring temporary workers is an option.
- Even if it is just for someone to come in for a few hours a week, this could make a huge difference and your employees will recognise that you are trying your best to help them out.
One of the most important things from an employee’s perspective is for them to feel valued and like their hard work is both recognised and appreciated.
The feeling of appreciation is one of the key components to good staff retention, which is really at the heart of every successful business. All employers would like to keep their staff around long-term and see them progress within their company. Issues such as understaffing can make this challenging, but it is still possible to do so. For ideas and advice about staff retention, you can download our e-Book.