4 signs your IT department is understaffed

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Joanne Yip|December 6, 2022
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General blog image 2

“My department has too many people,” said no one in IT ever. Often faced with limited resources, IT departments could use a few extra hands to keep things running smoothly. That includes everything from handling user issues to managing company-wide systems, networks, and data security. If you’re managing an IT team, it’s crucial to know when you’re understaffed, how to push for new hires, and how to cope in the meantime.

4 signs your IT team needs more staff

Without an adequate number of staff, IT teams can get overwhelmed and risk burnout — and that can cause major issues for your company’s performance and security. Learn to quickly spot these five telltale signs that your department is shorthanded so you can prevent those headaches.

1. A disproportionate IT-to-employee ratio

According to Robert Half, the recommended helpdesk-staff-to-employee ratio starts from 1:70 for organizations with a single operating system and network. For those with multiple OSs and hardware, the optimal ratio drops to 1:45. Today, the growth of remote work has also increased IT workloads and complexity — and the need for more IT staff.

2. Always playing catch-up

For IT administrators, being on call and working odd hours comes with the territory. Still, if the team is putting in time 24/7/365 but continues to fall behind, that’s a cause for concern. It could be a systems issue, or perhaps you simply need more staff to help get things back on track.

3. Nonexistent PTO

Paid time off (PTO) may not be a legal requirement in all states, but it’s an essential one. PTO can help employees maintain work-life balance, reduce burnout, and improve overall productivity. If no one gets to take time off for vacations or to recover from an illness, it’s a sure sign that things need to change.

4. No time for other critical priorities

Beyond day-to-day workloads, do you have the bandwidth to improve existing workflows, learn new technology, or take on projects in critical areas like security? If your team can’t clear mounting technical debt or take a more proactive approach to IT, that’s another sign that the team is understaffed.

How to convince your boss to hire more IT staff

One of the biggest challenges that many IT teams face is getting management approval to hire more staff. If you’re planning to lobby your boss for more staff, here are a few ways to increase your chances of success.

Choose the right time

It’s hard to get approval to hire more staff if your company is in the middle of budget cuts or a busy period. Time your requests carefully, and pick an appropriate moment to make your approach.

Assess your current situation

Map out your current team strengths, roles, and responsibilities against actual workloads, time spent, and backlog. Use data to point out exactly where the gaps are — and how another team member will help fill those gaps.

Have a clear proposal

Be clear about what you’re asking for — how many staff, for which IT roles, and their estimated salaries. It also helps to specify (and quantify) the business and operational benefits of filling these roles.

Have a backup plan

If management is not ready or able to commit to full-time hires, try offering alternative suggestions such as hiring part-time contract staff or outsourcing certain functions.

Survival tips for understaffed IT teams

It might take a while to get approval to hire new folks, or to find the right person for the role. In the meantime, these tips can help you cope.

Do what you can

When you’re understaffed, you simply can’t do everything — so focus on doing what you can and do it well. Spreading yourself too thin puts you at greater risk of falling short and burning out.

Hone those soft skills

Technical knowledge may get a job done, but certain soft skills like patience and resilience can help you overcome difficult situations with your mental health intact.


Be transparent with users about ticket volume and potential delays, prioritizing whenever possible. Let your manager and team know if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t try to tackle the situation alone.

Automate and document

Streamline workflows by automating repetitive and routine tasks. Use documentation to implement self-service user tasks, improve efficiency, and help ensure more consistent output.

Set the right KPIs

Set the right key performance indicators, aligning them with key organizational goals. Having relevant and achievable goals can provide a greater sense of purpose and keep the team motivated.

If increasing headcount is not an option, your next best bet is to equip yourselves with tools to reduce the chaos. For example, it could be a nightmare to deploy operating system images, drivers, and apps to dozens of different device models — if you’re doing it manually. SmartDeploy’s file-based imaging solution allows you to do that work seamlessly from one dashboard, making it a much less painful and time-consuming process. Give it a try to see how it can help save you precious hours and improve the way you get things done.

joanne profile
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true-crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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