How to deal with ’empty-desk syndrome’

Does your business suffer from “empty desk syndrome?”

Plenty of employers do. An employee quits, and no plan exists for filling their job. And more often than not, it’s someone who’s important to your operation.

A study by the online jobs board Indeed puts a number on this problem and, well, it’s kinda staggering.

“The economic costs of unfilled jobs [represent] a staggering loss of nearly $160 billion [in the U.S.] annually,” Indeed reports. “Of this amount, over half represent unearned wages (around 55 percent), with the remainder attributed to unearned profits. For the top 10 companies in Dow Jones Index, the combined cost of not filling open jobs for one month equals more than $75 million in monthly gross domestic product.”

Indeed says that while managers may see “empty desks” as a reduction in overhead that temporarily saves money, that’s a short-sighted view that robs money from the business and the overall economy.

“Failure to effectively resource a business slows both productivity and profits, relying on existing workers to cover skill shortages by working more hours under increased pressure. From a consumer perspective, the inability to earn an income or spend a salary reduces an individual’s contributions to overall economic growth,” Indeed says.

Among other findings from its study:

  • 33 percent of openings in the U.S. remain open for at least three months.
  • For states and industries which can achieve reductions in the time it takes businesses to fill job vacancies, there are clearly significant economic gains to be made and greater amounts of economic potential can be unlocked by better matching the right people to the right job opportunities.
  • The efficient matching of potential employees to businesses through the labor market is critical to supporting healthy levels of employment and household incomes, while allowing businesses to reach full productivity.

About the Author

Will Temby

Will has enjoyed a 20-year career in leadership positions in the hospitality and travel industry throughout the U.S. with the Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, Renaissance and Steamboat Ski and Resort corporations. Will received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. From 2000-2007, he served as President and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Vice President-Special Projects for the University of Colorado Foundation from 2007 to 2009. Will is a past Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Homeland Defense Foundation and former member of the United States Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. He is married to Nan, has five wonderful children, and enjoys coaching, traveling, hiking, golfing and skiing.