What to Do if Your Workplace Is Understaffed and Overworked
Project Management

What to Do if Your Workplace Is Understaffed and Overworked

Nov 16, 2023

Maintaining a lean staff can seem like a great way to cut down on operational expenses. With the “Great Resignation” leading to a record number of Americans quitting their jobs during the height of the pandemic, it can be tempting to keep staffing levels low to avoid having to spend money hiring and training new employees.

But if you don’t have enough people to perform key tasks, it can have ripple effects on many areas of your business. Here’s how to tell if you have an understaffed team, and what you can do to keep your employees from feeling like the workplace is understaffed and that they’re being overworked.

3 Signs Your Team Is Understaffed and Overworked

Understaffed and overworked: man saying, it's been a crazy week

The signs of an understaffed and overworked team can be hard to identify. Often, team members will pick up the slack in the short term, and it’s only as time goes by that you realize you’re facing more serious staffing issues. Here are three ways to tell if you’re experiencing the negative effects of an overworked team or a staffing shortage:

1. High-Stress Environment

Are employees consistently missing deadlines, working overtime, or otherwise showing signs of feeling overwhelmed at work? Absenteeism, tardiness, and even an increase in workplace conflict can be a sign that stress levels are high and you don’t have enough staff members on hand to handle the existing workload.

Some degree of stress is inevitable, especially if you have a major deadline or product launch coming up. But your small business or startup shouldn’t feel like an episode of “The Newsroom.” High stress levels over a long period of time can lead to trouble.

2. High Employee Turnover

Are you struggling with employee retention or experiencing high employee turnover on a regular basis? This could be a sign that you’re asking too much of your employees, and they feel like they can find a more reasonable work-life balance elsewhere.

Often, the problem isn’t with the job description itself, but that employees feel pressured to take on more and more responsibilities as a result of layoffs or labor shortages. Over time, their workload builds up and their job satisfaction decreases.

3. Project Bottlenecks

Are projects getting held up by frequent delays or bottlenecks? This may very well be due to insufficient staffing levels. Maybe you don’t have enough employees to complete routine tasks in a timely manner, or projects are getting held up while waiting for approvals from managers.

This could be a sign of chronic understaffing problems or too many vacancies on your team. In some cases, you may have enough team members overall, but not enough team members with specific skills or training to move the projects forward.

What Are the Risks of Being Understaffed and Overworked?

Understaffed and overworked: woman asking, when can I take a break?

Staffing problems don’t just result in overworked employees. They can also damage your company’s reputation and hurt your bottom line. Here are four ways that being understaffed and overworked can have negative effects on your business:

1. Employee Burnout

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is important for your employee’s well-being and mental health. Being on call 24/7 or having to stay late at the end of the workday on a regular basis can lead to increased stress, overwhelm, and burnout.

Employees need to be able take breaks and have downtime in order to avoid burnout and sustain their work performance over the long term.

2. Increase in Human Errors

Team members who are constantly tired, overworked, or stressed out are more likely to make mistakes. This can mean minor errors like typos or missed deadlines, but it can also include more serious issues such as software bugs and workplace accidents.

By pushing your team members to their limits, you’ll increase the likelihood of workplace safety violations, security vulnerabilities, and more. Even if nothing goes wrong, there’s always the risk of delivering a subpar product or service due to poor quality work.

3. Higher Costs

Having fewer employees may seem like a way to save money on payroll, but in fact, understaffing can lead to higher costs overall. Overworked employees may need to work longer and harder, leading to additional work hours and overtime expenses.

Even workers who are salaried may become dissatisfied with their job if they regularly work overtime for no additional pay. They may start looking for opportunities elsewhere, leading to high employee turnover.

If your company has high turnover, it means your human resources team will spend more time and money on recruiting and hiring new employees. You may also need to hire temp workers or seasonal help to fill in for overworked or burned-out employees.

4. Decreased Customer Satisfaction

If your team is understaffed and overworked for long enough, your customers or clients are sure to notice. For one, your team will be less responsive to inquiries or complaints, leading to a decrease in customer satisfaction.

You may also find yourself losing clients if you keep missing deadlines or are unable to control the scope, time, and cost of a project.

What to Do When You’re Understaffed and Overworked

Old woman asking, what is a weekend?

To deal with an understaffed and overworked workforce, you’ll need to get to the root of the problem. If you’re dealing with general staffing issues or a seasonal labor shortage, you’ll need to change your hiring process. If your staffing problems are driven by high employee turnover, you may need to make changes to your company culture.

In many cases, the problem isn’t with the number of employees you have: it’s with poor workflows and a failure to properly delegate and prioritize tasks.

Below are four ways to improve productivity without expanding your team.

1. Remove Distractions

First, eliminate the distractions that make it hard for your employees to stay focused at work. This could be anything from back-to-back meetings that sap employees’ energy, to remote collaboration tools that deliver excessive and unnecessary notifications.

By reducing both physical and mental clutter in the workspace, your team members will be less likely to feel overwhelmed at work and be better able to focus on their to-do list.

2. Improve Your Scheduling

Next, improve your staffing levels with a more effective scheduling system. Consider establishing a remote or hybrid work schedule so that team members can work from home or come into the office as needed to save time.

If your team spans multiple time zones, take advantage of asynchronous scheduling: As Forbes explains, one team can move a project forward while the other is off the clock.

You can use a project management calendar to keep everyone on the same page, from your first kickoff meeting to your project retrospective.

3. Streamline Task Delegation

Sometimes team members feel overworked because they don’t have the appropriate skills or training to complete a particular task. On the other hand, managers may feel overworked because they have a hard time letting go and entrusting tasks to others.

Effective task delegation can help you avoid these issues by assigning tasks to the team member best suited to complete it. Learning how to delegate tasks is key to becoming a better manager and helping your employees avoid burnout.

4. Use AI-Powered Automation

By automating note-taking and other key tasks, you’ll reduce the pressure on your team members to do everything themselves. AI-powered software tools like Anchor AI can do everything from creating a meeting transcript to sending out a meeting summary.

In addition to identifying action items in your meeting notes, Anchor AI can add them to your action item tracker and assign them to a specific team member. From there, you can keep track of the progress of each task, and adjust due dates as needed.

Using project management AI saves you time and money and frees your employees up to focus on higher-level problem-solving and creative thinking.

Empower Your Team With Anchor AI

Man asking, what kind of workplace is this man?

Being overstaffed and underworked is never a good thing, but most of the time, it’s a manageable problem. Along with increasing your staffing levels and improving your scheduling, you can also streamline your workflows with task automation.

Anchor AI reduces your team’s workload by automating key tasks like note-taking, task delegation, and action item tracking. You can even chat with our software the same way you would with ChatGPT to gain deeper insights into your project or meeting.

Sign up for Anchor AI today, and empower your team to do their best work!

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