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T: 01636 816 466

The Old Vicarage
Station Road, Rolleston
NG23 5SE                              

Operational Research

You can always be more efficient

Operational Research is all about using analysis to improve decision making. Dr Angela Moore uses mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, optimisation, sequencing and scheduling techniques to create simple heuristics you can employ to run your operation more efficiently.

How many staff do I need?

When setting up any operation this should be one of the first questions you ask yourself. Employing the correct number of staff means that your operation can be more efficient, cost effective, productive, less fatiguing and more flexible. However the calculation is not obvious. It is very easy to get wrong; one of the most common mistakes is to forget to include holidays. Calculating your workload for a year ahead can also be problematical. For example call centres can have vastly varying workloads depending on call volumes. The graphs above show real data giving you an idea of the complexity involved. To calculate your workload correctly you need to know not only the workload but how you want to manage it.

When your workloads can fluctuate over the day, week or year, you need to forecast your workload and have an adaptable staffing solution. However when you get it right your staff will be more happy and productive and your operation more effective.

Efficiency Savings

In order to work in a well-organised way, everyone needs a job and there has to be a job for everyone. So if you are understaffed then you are forever having to call someone in or go short. This takes time to organise; managerial time that could be better spent and operational time if you only know at the last minute you will be short.

If you are overstaffed, than you are constantly having people stood around doing nothing. Not only is this wasteful but nobody likes it. Management doesn’t want someone stood around doing nothing while they pay. The person stood around doesn’t like it because they are bored. The rest of the operation doesn’t like it because why does one person get to do nothing while they slave away. So the operation is reorganised to include that extra person. This is bad practice, first of all this takes time. Secondly everyone has to learn a new job so they don’t work effectively. Thirdly over time the operation will expand to include the extra person then they will feel overworked when they have the correct number on duty.

If you want to achieve maximum productivity with minimum cost then you need to employ the correct number of staff.

Cost Effective

Employing too few staff may seem cheaper. After all this means, less pay checks, less training, less administration cost and less overheads (equipment, uniforms etc.). Hence why employ more if you can get away with less.

Well firstly if the operation required less staff, then that would be the optimum number of staff to employ! If you don't employ enough staff either the operation will suffer (work will not get done on time if at all) or your overtime bill will rise.

The calculations do not lie. If they say you need 10 staff, then you need to employ 10 staff or it will end up costing you more in the long run.

If you employ too many staff then you are just paying people unnecessarily.


Having too few staff is obviously less productive. However this is not a proportional loss of productivity. If your operation needs ten people to do the work, and you have only nine the team as a whole will not be just 90% as productive as when 10 people are there. This is because a team is more than just the sum of its parts. That person could be so relevant to the operation that nothing gets done without them. At the very least everyone would need to reorganise themselves and this takes time.

Having too many staff can be less productive too. Ever heard the saying; “Too many cooks spoil the broth!” One person too many, means, that the operation needs to be reorganised in order to include them. This takes time and makes the shift less productive.

If you want to maximise productivity then you need to employ the correct number of staff.

Reduce Fatigue

Fatigue is costly and disruptive. When staff are fatigued they are more prone to error and take longer to do tasks. Two factors that affect fatigue are being under or over worked. If you employ too few staff then you will either need to overwork them to get the work done or lose out on profit. Incidentally this also leads to a stressful environment. Very exciting for managers because there is always a problem to be solved since you don’t have all the resources you need.

If you employ too many staff they will feel undervalued and bored.


If you employee too few staff then they will become inflexible. This is because you need to over work them, so their days off became more precious. Hence asking someone to come into work for you, on their only weekend off this month, is not going to go well.

How Many Staff Do I Need?

Here is a simple rule of thumb, if you want one person on at all times, 24/7, you need to employ five people. Four to cover the workload, and one to cover for holidays, absence, and training. In short workload in hours times 1.25 for holidays absence and training.

If you want to find out the exact number then buy our ebook: Calculating How Many Staff Do You Need available from Amazon for only £6.53.

Or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we can do the calculation for you.

If you are looking to review your shift pattern, then our Business Health Check includes calculating how many staff you need as well as estimating your overtime bills for your current staffing levels.