Layoffs: Teams are getting overstretched

Photo credit: DepositPhotos
Photo credit: DepositPhotos

When people lose their jobs as a result of layoffs, teams get smaller, and the people left have too much to do and insufficient help.

As the head of marketing for a group of restaurants in the UK, James’ job was to develop a long-term plan, build a steady digital audience, and bring in more customers over time. But in reality, his job differed from what he was hired to do. Even for small, routine tasks, there was always a need for more people, let alone for the job he was hired for.

“Right from the start, there weren’t enough numbers,” says James, a Londoner whose last name isn’t used to protect his career.

Because of Brexit, pandemic lockdowns, and the hiring crisis in the service industry, his team was so small that James says even managers often had to wait tables. And these problems could be better for his job.

Soon, James couldn’t do his job anymore because he needed help daily. He also said that he could see why companies might want to run things with a small staff to reduce risk, especially since the hospitality industry was struggling. But it’s hard on everyone involved.

Too much work to handle

Even if the team is small and there is much work, it needs more people.

Some teams are made to be small, and employees are expected to do many different things so that they can work with few resources. But there is a massive difference between a small, quick team and a team that needs more resources.

When an employee isn’t there, if the workload gets too much and someone else has to do the tasks of another worker, this is probably a sign of not having enough workers.

As layoffs happen faster around the world, people who still have jobs end up on smaller teams. And because the economy is still uncertain, many businesses are attempting to do more with less by cutting jobs and stopping new hires. Because fewer people are working, the people still there often have to pick up the slack, do more work, and do things that aren’t in their job description.

All of this has a price. Because of the economy, more people may find themselves working in places where they are needed. Because the market is uncertain, they might have no choice but to work extremley hard as possible. Even if the work is done quickly, not enough people will cause stress, anxiety, burnout, and other less obvious problems in the long run.

Teams need more resources to help the output of a company. But it is also about people. Ultimately, the workers have to deal with the effects of layoffs and insufficient staff, which adds stress to their already heavy workloads. This affects how well they do at work and how they feel about themselves, which can be bad for them. Maston says, “Not having enough people on a team causes stress and anxiety, which hurts the quality of work and the health of the employees in the long run.”

James was shocked by this fact and said it put him in an impossible situation. “I had a choice: I could either work a lot of hours, which would be tiring or a shorter workday, which would be less stressful but would mean I wouldn’t get everything done that day.

Will the layoffs last?

Before the cross-sector layoffs were announced, many companies’ employees were already declining.

During the peak of the Great Resignation, for example, workers who stayed on the job were expected to fill in for those who left. Even though teams worked harder than usual to compensate for the lack of workers, many open positions stayed open because recruiters had trouble filling them. In October 2022, the British Chambers of Commerce polled more than 5,100 businesses and found that 76% needed help hiring staff, and 56% were not running at full capacity because they needed help finding enough people to hire.

Even though a bad job market can lead to teams with too few people, employers can also make this happen because it makes financial sense for businesses to run as lean as possible.

Management may have a different idea of what “understaffing” means than the workers do. Chang says bosses like employees who try to do their best and take the initiative. So when people see their coworkers’ jobs being cut, they may feel pressured to accept the lack of resources, keep going, and take on more work.

Workers often want to dig in for their safety and to help other workers who are having trouble. This keeps productivity high in the short term, which makes bosses happy and gives them a reason to keep teams small, but it also hides the deeper problem of not having enough workers. So, not having enough resources can cause problems immediately, but it can also hurt a career in the long run in slow, sneaky ways.

Experts say that not having enough people on staff can only last for so long. After that, something always breaks, whether it’s the work’s quality or the workers’ health.

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Still, because of the economy and job market, many workers can expect to be on short-staffed teams for now. But companies that let people go aren’t the only ones to blame for these problems. Even though some companies haven’t joined the wave of layoffs, they still can’t fill jobs that have been open for years. This keeps teams from moving if they need more resources.