Skills shortages leads to increased overworking

Job vacancies in the UK soared to a record of 1.3 million in March to May this year and research from The Open University's Business Barometer has found staff are taking on extra work as a result of unfilled roles.

The research found 72% of staff are dealing with an increased workload as a result of staff shortages, up from 56% in September 2021. 

Despite the intense workload, 78% of the businesses surveyed also admitted seeing reduced output, profitability and growth.

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Neil Davidson, regional vice president EMEA and APAC at software solutions provider Deltek, said more focus needs to be paid to workload - which in 2021 was found to be the leading cause of work-related stress.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “To avoid employee burnout, businesses need to support them in effectively managing their workloads. A forward looking view of their projects, matched to the talent needed to deliver for their clients is central to offering this support.

"In a time when many industries are seeing skills shortages, resource management is the critical process to give teams a proactive overview of projects and resource, making it much easier to perform, plan and hire effectively."

Jamie Styles, director of people and culture at mental healthcare provider Koa Health, said managing expectations would be key to alleviating workloads.

He told HR magazine: "Unrealistic expectations and conflicting priorities can make it impossible to manage a heavy workload, which can lead to burnout, absenteeism and turnover across teams. 

"HR leaders must continue to encourage open dialogue about burnout and its impacts on mental health. The benefits associated with these conversations allow us to better cope with challenges and boost resilience. A workforce with stronger mental wellbeing is more likely to have stronger morale, greater productivity, and reduced burnout, sick leave and staff churn." 

The report also showed the disparity between small and large businesses when it comes to addressing the issue, as 90% of large organisations claimed to have a plan in place to tackle skill shortages as opposed to 46% of small and medium companies (SMEs).

Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at insurance advisory firm Partners&, told HR magazine: "In the medium and longer term UK employers will need to accept the challenge of upskilling and reskilling workers. 

"Large employers might be able to fully fund such an approach in isolation, but smaller employers in any given sector could perhaps pool resources to ensure that the skills shortages being experienced in recent months are not repeated later in the decade."

The report surveyed 1,310 organisations across the UK in April 2022.