Julie Tucker
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Short staffed? How to get the work done

When you don’t have enough staff to handle the workload, it impacts on other employees, your company’s performance and your reputation, not to mention causing incredible stress for everyone.

Unfortunately, running a business with insufficient staff is something many of us are facing, as Britain is experiencing its worst labour shortage in 25 years.

Many workers were laid off during the pandemic and theses people haven’t yet been replaced, according to a joint study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and accounting firm KPMG.

The UK hasn’t experienced such staff shortages since 1997. While shortages of kitchen porters, chefs, cleaners and warehouse staff have been ongoing, the issue has spread to typically higher-paid sectors such as IT, finance and accounting.

Getting the work done

The employment rate in Britain currently stands at 75.5%, which is below the pre-pandemic rate, according to government statistics. Whether your staffing crisis is caused by holidays, sick leave or other UK-wide economic factors, it’s important to get the work done efficiently and on time, with as little disruption as possible.

Being overworked can dampen your team’s productivity – but what’s the best way to manage when staff numbers are low? Read on for some handy tips on how to improve the situation…

Prioritise tasks

Focus on tasks that are time-sensitive and with deadlines. Work on the most necessary items first, starting with the ones that must be completed that day, including any customer and client-oriented tasks. Don’t stress about important projects that don’t have an immediate deadline.

In terms of morale, finishing the most urgent tasks makes employees feel they’ve accomplished something at the end of the day.

When you know you’re going to be short-staffed, determine the jobs that will be most important in advance. Form an action plan with your team to complete all the important tasks above all else. Then, move on to projects that are less urgent.

Never start obsessing about low-priority tasks that can be accomplished at some point in the future. Keep focused on the job at hand.

Understand which roles need filling

When you know certain colleagues are going to be absent from work, keep a handle on which roles need filling. Then, take advantage of the power of teamwork. Try doing things a little differently to compensate for the people who are absent.

Make sure all roles are covered without anyone’s immediate colleagues getting snowed under with the extra work. For example, you can team up employees so certain priority tasks can be finished twice as fast.

Emphasise to your team that they may need to work outside their comfort zone for a short time. This means working on projects or tasks that are not on their usual “to do” list. Getting your employees working together efficiently as a team is the best way to ensure everyone’s day runs smoothly.

Improve communication

Even if your communication is always good, take it up a notch and make sure you communicate effectively with all your employees every day. While this should be happening in normal times, it becomes even more crucial when you are short-staffed, as it conveys to all team members the tasks that are a priority.

As a supervisor or manager, ensure you’re readily available all day, so your employees can speak to you when the need arises. This means questions or concerns are never delayed, which can waste precious time.

Praise your team

It may seem a small thing, but praise your team and encourage them every day. When you’re short-staffed, you might forget that your employees are feeling immense pressure too. Always recognise their efforts and thank them regularly for the good job they’re doing under challenging circumstances.

Research shows 63% of employees feel undervalued in the workplace. Surprisingly, 59% say they’ve never had a manager who truly appreciates their efforts. Telling staff they’re doing a great job in tough times will help boost their morale.

Remind them the staffing problem is temporary and that things will improve in the near future. If you have a timeline for this, such as a date when someone is returning from leave, or a new employee is arriving, this is something to mark on the calendar.

Have patience: you know things will get better, you just need to weather the current storm.

Look after yourself

Don’t be so busy trying to manage the workload that you forget to look after yourself. Work on self-care and downtime, so you don’t burn out. Make sure you’re eating properly, getting enough sleep and leaving time for recreational activities outside the workplace.

If you become exhausted, you won’t be able to work at all, leaving your colleagues in a bigger predicament than before. Being based in a coworking space can help you to plan your time more effectively.

A flexible workspace means you can concentrate your resources as and when needed. When there’s an urgent project to finish, the whole team can step up and devote their time to making sure the deadline is met. Then, if there’s a little downtime, everyone can take a well-deserved breather before the next task begins.

Your staff will need to wear different hats at different times to survive the crisis: they’re there to help you manage operations, establish a sense of community and to help your brand flourish in adversity.

In coworking, your team is the DNA of your business. Finding a balance between managing operational complexities, such as staffing issues, while providing a pleasant environment for everyone, is the key to surviving the challenges and emerging all the stronger.


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