You may have heard the term ‘crunch culture’ in the past. Every company has periods that are busier than others and its employees are rushed off their feet. However, there are also occasions when companies are particularly busy and its staff have to briefly put forward a superhuman effort to meet a deadline or get a big order out. During these periods, as the saying goes, it often comes down to ‘the crunch’.

If this happens often, however, and employees are expected to frequently work longer hours than they’re contracted, then the company can be described as having a ‘crunch culture’.

In this post, we’ll look at the downside of crunch culture and what you can do to limit its damaging effects.

The consequences of crunch culture


if employees consistently work over their contracted hours, there’s a good chance some of them will burnout. Worse still, as its crunch time and the company needs all hands on deck, they can’t take time off like they normally could, making it doubly difficult on employees. Even if an employee isn’t burnt out, the odds that you’re getting the best out of them are slim.  

So the only chance an employee has of getting a reprieve is calling in sick. They then, however, risk incurring the resentment of management, as well as the colleagues who have to pick up the slack in their absence.

Company culture

If a company has a crunch culture, it could negatively affect their retention rate. If their most capable employees will have enough, they’ll seek work elsewhere. This could leave them with the least marketable or ambitious employees who feel they’re stuck in the company. Having an office of these kind of employees will foster a toxic company culture.

Mental health

The potent combination of burnout and a toxic working environment could have a significant impact on an employee’s mental health. Firstly, burnout is as much mental as it is physical and if prolonged for a long period, it can lead to lasting effects which are harder to recover from. When combined with a working environment in which your colleagues are equally worn out, as well as feeling frustrated and undervalued, this can severely compromise an employee’s mental health.

How to handle crunch culture

The main issue with crunch culture is that it’s often unavoidable. That being said, there are several ways in which its negative effects can be minimized. 

Give Employees Notice

If your company is anticipating a crunch period, let your staff as far in advance as you’re able to. This will allow them to prepare themselves for what’s to come, which could include taking annual leave before crunch time kicks in.

In cases where employees haven’t used much of their holiday allowance for that year, you could request they take time off so that they’re better rested and less susceptible to burn out.

However, in order to know which employees haven’t had time off in a while, it helps to have a comprehensive staff holiday planner from which you can easily access this information.

Be Transparent

Be as clear as possible about what you expect from your employees during the crunch period. This includes how many extra hours they may have to work, if they’ll be expected to work weekends, and how long this period is likely to last. Just as importantly, explain how they’ll be compensated for their extra efforts, such as overtime pay or TOIL.

Granted, crunch periods are often characterised by their unpredictability and it’s difficult to give your employees information that you don’t have yourself – but clue them in as best you can.  Being transparent makes the employees feel more included and valued and helps to prevent resentment from seeping into your company’s culture.

Better resource management

The better you can apportion your workforce the less stressful crunch periods will be. This could involve drafting employees in from other teams or parts of the company, training staff to take on additional responsibility, and even hiring extra people.

The more efficiently you manage your human resources ahead of the busy period, the better you can distribute work and the less chance your employees will burn out.

If you’re interested in absence management software that makes it simple to see which of your how staff have annual leave outstanding, calculate TOIL, and book days off – give Schedule Leave a try. Sign up for your free trial today to find out how much time it can save your business.