With all the burnout from working short staffed for years I have seen some of my co-workers slowly start to “slack off” in response to the constant addition of more responsibilities because there simply is not enough people to do the work. I thought this was just a unique thing for healthcare since we lost so much staff during the pandemic and people are reluctant to work in healthcare now that it has passed. I know pretty much everywhere is hiring, many with signing bonuses and other things to sweeten the pot and attract workers but this is not unique to healthcare. It appears to be happening in ALL industries.
How did this happen? Where did all the workers go? How are people supporting themselves and their families without jobs? Why are people not applying for the open jobs?
I understood at first that some people were afraid to come out from their bubbles and rejoin the world. This left the workforce a bit short staffed with current employees struggling to cover the workload for the open jobs waiting for applicants. Apparently when additional work is assigned without any additional compensation it is called “quiet hiring”. I had never heard of this before. It is definitely a practice that needs to stop. It leads to burnout. Burnout leads to “quiet quitting” where employees still show up but do less and less work. The problem is that then others end up picking up the slack even more leading to even more burn out.
That brings us to where we are today. People are working mandatory overtime that they do not want with those employed working 10-12 hour days 5+ days a week in some cases for weeks without a day off just to cover the workload. No wonder people are burnt out. Vacations and sick calls are not covered just leading to more short staffing issues. *IF* you can actually get approved to take a vacation day. Most places are so short staffed they stopped approving time off due to “staffing issues”. So employees just call in sick… or just don’t show up for work. After all…What are they going to do? Fire you? Ha! They are already so short staffed that they need you even if you call in sick every Friday or just don’t show up for work then post photos of yourself on Facebook enjoying the beach in Cancun living your best life while your co-workers cover your work. (yeah, that just happened at my job in the last month).
So what is the solution? Until the staffing shortages can be fixed employees who show up and work hard should be treated and compensated better. Perhaps instead of forcing overtime on the companies terms let employees volunteer to to the additional work on their terms and possibly do some work from home or offer flexible hours so the work gets done but allows them to have a better balance. Maybe someone is a night owl and would rather work after their kids go to bed or they are an early riser and would rather come in early. Maybe instead of having hiring bonuses there should be retention bonuses and the wages that would have been paid to all the people who would have been working all the open positions should be added up together and divided among the hours worked by current staff so everyone gets a portion based on the numbers of hours they worked. It wouldn’t be much, but it is better than nothing. Even if it just covers that afternoon espresso to make it through the day it is a nice gesture. It should be by department based on the number of open jobs they have. So if your department is currently fully staffed, your employees are not working short and therefore are not eligible for the bonus. But if you are 2 people covering the work of 5 or 30 people covering the work of 34 that bonus will be proportional to the amount of extra work you are having to cover. Those who are covering more work should be compensated more…and that is in addition to the overtime needed to do the job. It may not cause overtime in the case of the 30 people covering the work of 34, but for those 2 people doing the work of 5…that is impossible without at least a little overtime.
So why talk about this? Well, it is something that really hits home for me. In my above example I am one of the 2 doing the work of 5…and my coworker just had surgery and will be off work for 3-4 months. I am now alone. Responsible for the workload of 5 people. We have open jobs with ZERO applicants. One of the jobs has been open for a few years, one has been open for 2 years and another for about a year and they will shortly be adding a 4th open job to cover the workload I am shouldering alone. I can work as much overtime as I want and I am currently working 50-60 hour weeks. I work until I am tired because I am NEVER finished. I come in early and work late every day and if I don’t have any plans I come in on Saturdays too.
I’m exhausted. I’m bitter. I don’t like to talk about work or think about work when I am not at work because it is so miserable. But the first thing most people ask me is “how’s work?” People seem to not understand just how bad the staffing situation is in some places, especially those who are not working or are working remote and not in an office environment. To most people my work situation sounds like a tall tale, but it is in fact very real. The one person who applied for the job was walked over to meet me in the interview and I was behind, breaking a sweat with people coming at me from all sides wanting things. They declined the job. I have requested that the next interview be just before the lunch hour so it is calmer and we don’t scare them away if anyone else applies for any of the open jobs.
Until we are fully staffed, I will just do what I can and hopefully people will understand that I am only one person. I will also fixate on my next vacation about a year from now. Knowing that work will not be my problem for at least 10 days when I return to the UK…This time with my husband for his first trip there.