10 Ways To Manage Your Workload When Understaffed

With summer in full swing and many employees gearing up to take well-deserved breaks, how can business leaders ensure nothing slips through the cracks? 

If a company already has people out on leave to deal with illness, bereavement or welcome a new family member at the same time a number of team members go on vacation, a “lean” operation can start to struggle. This can affect not only the morale of team members who are still around, keeping things running, but also client and customer satisfaction.

Here, members of Forbes Agency Council share ten effective ways for companies to best manage the workflow when multiple employees are out of the office at once.

1. Ask Everyone To Share The Load And Lead By Example

Know what’s coming, predict it to employees, ask them to share in the load and lead by example. If I take a vacation in the middle of a busy season, how could I ask my employees not to do so? The message is simple: “We rise or fall as a team.” The work has to get done and there is only so much expertise to go around. The experts have to rise to the occasion. That’s the job. 

2. Provide Remote Accessibility For Last-Minute Travel

Vacations are a part of the work/life balance that needs to be accommodated by companies. However, it’s important to recognize that time off requires preparation and planning. Employees should give plenty of notice for long trips so that daily tasks can be shifted without adding stress. 

For last-minute trips, it’s helpful when employees are able to complete time-sensitive or high-priority tasks remotely.

3. Share A Clearly Written Vacation Policy With New Hires

A clearly written vacation policy must be shared with employees at their time of hire. If employees provide ample notification of their time off, businesses can plan ahead and move projects to other team members or shift recurring work to less busy times. It also helps to leverage an established and vetted freelance or contractor pool to supplement the team during times of peak workload.

4. Build Bench Strength On Your Account Teams

Build bench strength on each of our account teams to ensure that when one team member is out of the office taking much-deserved time off, there’s another member of the account team on deck to cover any needs that may come up for a seamless client experience. Clients do know when one of their contacts will be out, and they tend to be great about planning big projects around that time when possible. 

5. Implement A Buddy System To Cover Each Other

We are all running our organizations as lean as possible. What that means is, if you’re not there to do your job, no one else is going to do it for you. Yet, we all need to take time off to recharge, and the buddy system can work really well. We’re all willing to work a little harder from time to time when our colleagues need to recharge in exchange for the ability to do the same!

6. Do Cross-Training And Clearly Define SOPs

Cross-training is the best way  to manage summer workflows. It allows your team to share responsibilities and cover for each other during vacations and even high-intensity projects. As part of the process, it’s important to have clearly defined standard operating procedures as a foundation for success.

7. Be Honest With Customers

Be honest with your customers during the sales cycle. Let them know that your team is taking vacations during the summer months because they work so hard during the rest of the year. Most companies will understand that you employ people, not robots, and they will appreciate your honesty. 

8. Leverage Freelancers And Staffing Agencies

Using freelancers and staffing agencies is an excellent way to help manage the ebb and flow of employees taking vacation during the summer months and holidays. In addition, it’s important to ensure employee vacations are staggered whenever possible so that you’re not without multiple employees at once. However, the more you outsource select tasks to contractors, the more flexible your company can be year-round. 

9. Prioritize The Needs Of  ‘Mission-Critical’ Projects 

You won’t be able to accomplish everything at the same speed if multiple employees are taking their well-deserved vacations. Have a plan of action for what is “mission-critical” when it comes to projects. This might mean working ahead or handing off a project to another team member to take the lead for the time being. During vacation time, focus on the company’s needs, not its wants.

10. Schedule Workflow Planning A Week Or Two Out

Make workflow planning a part of the schedule for the week or two before an employee is out. Is someone going to be gone for the next two weeks? Say, “Let’s spend this week figuring out how this work should be managed in the meantime.” Then, figure out what is or isn’t vital and delegate or reassign tasks. Alternatively, avoid operating on minimal staffing. If one person being out cripples production, it’s probably time to expand the team.

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