Issues around the lack of adequate staffing plague many industries. Unpredictable workloads cause organizations to become short-handed, even when they're willing to hire more employees. Networking and strategic planning are involved in implementing strategies for handling workloads during the periods where companies are understaffed. Chronic understaffing causes considerable stress for staff members, which further decreases production. Therefore, it is most advantageous for a company to meet this problem head-on.
First Things First
When there is more work than staff members, it is important to prioritize. Inevitably some work does not get completed in times like these and it's vital to know what duties to let slide. Where customers are involved, their issues must be addressed first. Meeting customers' needs may mean paperwork slips to the next day or returned phone calls are delayed. While perhaps not the best way to do business, in the short term it is one way to handle not having enough staff members.
Work as a Team
Being short staffed means that all hands are on deck. The more efficient staff members should be in charge of the most critical duties and perhaps even watch over other employees. When an organization is shorthanded, the human resources that are available cannot be wasted. Workers have to jump in and perform tasks that are not normally part of their duties. For example, in a busy time in retail, everyone may have to hang clothes or run the cash register.
Be a Squeaky Wheel
To handle the workload when you are short-handed, make sure that upper management is aware of the problem. When workers continue to be productive regardless of extenuating circumstances, understaffing likely is to continue because the severity of the problem goes unnoticed. Inform upper management that business will suffer if you continue to be shorthanded. Ask for alternate resources to handle the workload, such as hiring temporary employees.
Dig Into the Past
For short-term staffing issues, look to the past for help. Employees who were previously a part of the department are key resources for handling excessive workloads. During crunch times, try to reach out to former staff members and see if they're available to help. While it likely won't serve as a long-term solution, these previous employees will be invaluable during a pinch.
- American Postal Workers Union Tri County Area: Short Staffing and Stress
- Nurse Together: Strategies to Cope with Short Staffing in Nursing
- Alliance Staffing Network: How Being Short-Staffed Can Add Pressure in the Workplace
- Harvard Business School: Understaffed and Overworked: What Now?
- Managing People at Work: Measuring Performance Article: When you're understaffed
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