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How to Handle the Workload With a Short-handed Staff

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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.


Based in the Midwest, Gina Scott has been writing professionally since 2008. She has worked in real estate since 2004 and has expertise in pop culture and health-related topics. She has also self-published a book on how to overcome chronic health conditions. Scott holds a Master of Arts in higher-education administration from Ball State University.

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