Understaffing or short staffing is usually not an issue when it is only for a short period. However, if your company has been understaffed for a long period, that can create problems. Understaffing is usually caused by layoffs and not having the budget to hire more. Nevertheless, it helps to know what to expect if your department will be understaffed in the near future.
Overworking and Burnout
Running a business or organization involves completing tasks. Regardless of being understaffed, completion of assignments is often mandatory. Keeping the organization running smoothly until managers hire additional personnel takes effort and help from everyone within the organization. Understaffing is usually seen in a start-up. Nevertheless, in such cases, people at the company are driven by passion and belief in a cause. Another example of understaffing is in a company going through a period of financial crisis. In either case, running such a model may be sustainable in the short term. However, long-term understaffing can have serious consequences. These will include but are not limited to drastic effects on employee health and well-being and turnovers.
Mental and Emotional Effects
Handing multiple jobs to a single person to compensate for understaffing not only increases individual workload but also the additional workload can increase their work stress as well. This happens when the personnel is not familiar with the responsibility given to them, such as when an accountant is asked to design flyers for promotion; or when the additional responsibilities are too challenging. Furthermore, employees may start feeling that their colleagues are not pulling their weight for the operations to run smoothly. These can in turn cause tension between the team members, which can decrease trust and ultimately, productivity.
Difficulty Reaching Goals
However, let us say the limited staff on your team are ready to increase their workload and deal with their understaffing problem. This can cause them to fall behind their goals. More workload does not mean increased productivity. For instance, if the social media team is understaffed, they might fail to keep up with the latest trends or viral sensations. Alternatively, if the HR department is short-staffed, they may fall behind on releasing the salary payments on time. Managers may be able to delegate tasks well, but then the individual staff will have to juggle multiple assignments at the same time and this will cause the rise of half-baked or delayed completions.
Customers are not impressed
If you are a service-oriented business, like a fast-food chain or haircutting saloon, being short-staffed can be the worst thing that can happen to you. It affects the service quality through delays in service delivery. The volume of sales will drastically decrease because of the decrease in customer satisfaction. As the saying goes, happy customers are loyal customers. If you do not treat your customer as well as your competitors due to staffing issues, then you should expect your customers to go elsewhere.
As compensation for their unwarranted troubles such as long working hours and stressful weeks, as a manager, you could offer them additional time-offs such as half-days and longer lunch breaks. This helps them to recover mentally and reduce the chances of burnout. Additionally, you could also consider a part-time daily wages staff to assist around the office. This person can handle simple, but tedious tasks such as filing, running errands and typing correspondence.