Understaffing Issues in the Workplace

by Louise Balle ; Updated September 26, 2017
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Employees' pay and related costs together represent one of the largest expenses for many businesses, and when expenses start to run high, it's not uncommon for owners and managers to make cuts in this area precisely because it's so large. This can lead to understaffing, though, which causes many more problems for an enterprise. Any decision to reduce staff below optimum levels should only be undertaken with a clear understanding of the adverse consequences of understaffing.


An understaffed company lacks sufficient employees to cover the regular workload and complete job tasks efficiently. In some cases, understaffing is the result of challenges in finding suitable workers, but in others it's intentional due to cost-cutting measures. Regardless of the reason, though, understaffing's burden falls mostly on the shoulders of the existing workers, who must take up the slack.

Worker Exhaustion

Individual workers in an understaffed facility are required to perform more work than is normally associated with their jobs. This leads to over-tiredness and physical exhaustion. which in turn lead to a decrease in productivity. Tired workers who are trying to work faster to meet quotas often are more prone to accidents. In addition, because their focus is on meeting deadlines and quotas, employees' creativity and ingenuity decline, which poses a real problem for firms that rely on employees' problem-solving skills. Finally, your customers often won't receive timely and appropriate support, so overall customer service suffers.

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Low Morale

Low morale is another common issue associated with understaffing in a business. Over time, as existing employees lose hope that they will get relief from the overly oppressive working conditions, they often become dissatisfied with management and the job in general. Low morale leads workers to take more days off of work, miss deadlines, and lose interest in their jobs. These factors all lead to lower overall productivity.


One of the worst possible effects of understaffing in a business is sudden high turnover, the result of demoralized employees leaving the business for greener pastures. A high turnover rate is an expensive problem for a business. The company must pay to recruit and train new employees. A sudden drop in the existing staff can exacerbate the already existent understaffing problem. In an extreme case, excessive turnover in an already understaffed workplace can cause operations to come to a halt.

About the Author

Louise Balle has been writing Web articles since 2004, covering everything from business promotion to topics on beauty. Her work can be found on various websites. She has a small-business background and experience as a layout and graphics designer for Web and book projects.

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