Just like many other parts of the US, the city of Keene, NH is also experiencing labor shortages. People not wanting to work or unable to work is hurting all businesses from restaurants to retail stores. When speaking with Emma Rochefort, a sales associate at Synergy, and Keene State College junior she said that they have no coverage when people are sick and must do a lot of their processing out on the floor instead of in the back like they normally would. Synergy has roughly nine employees that are holding anywhere from 15-40 hours a week. “Everyone knowing everyone and working closely, I would say that’s the only pro,” Synergy is currently working at changing over their products to fit the season, “We wish we could get things on the rack a lot quicker than we are physically able to”. Rochefort also added how lucky they are to work in an environment with great management and staff and being able to work closely with the owner.
Beth Doyle, the owner is very fortunate to not have had much of an issue with being understaffed but said that the pandemic has made scheduling hard due to staff being sick or in quarantine. “I had to pick up a lot of slack”, Doylesaid when talking about how many hours her employees work and what happens when one ends up in quarantine.
She gave her employees a pay raise as a “thank you” for working through the pandemic and has changed the way they keep the store clean. Doyle said the staff is very helpful with picking up extra hours when someone is unable to come in.
Retail stores aren’t the only places that are understaffed. Restaurants are also having trouble with keeping up with the demand of goods and sometimes stock as well, products fall out of stock or there are no delivery drivers to bring the products to the restaurant. Jesse Schultz, the general manager, and head chef of Odelay, faces many challenges being understaffed. Schultz says his employees and himself are pulling more and more hours which causes lots of stress. “That level of stress has limits. Everybody can always do a little more, everybody can always help do a little more, but at the same time when you keep pushing that envelope, when you keep adding more and more and more, when too much work becomes normal and then you keep adding more work onto that, that’s when people break and in a system this fragile, when your already pushing people too hard and overworking your staff and yourself losing that one extra person who was one of the mainstays of your labor force, that can crush you…I try to make it as close to a family as possible”. Schultz said.
“The culture we foster is a huge benefit”. At Odelay, they do company breakfasts and dinners and want to throw a company party soon. Schultz also added that he is very lenient to last minute time off and offers a free meal during shifts but had to stop giving free drinks due to financial strain.
“If someone applies and only wants 3 hours, 4 hours a week, I don’t turn them down, I will find a spot for them because I will have a need”. He spoke about an incident where he was the only one working. Running register, making food, bringing food out. “The entire food system, I don’t want to say is on the verge of collapse but it’s very fragile”.
Brian Cressey, the owner of Community Transportation in Jaffrey. Right now, he says they have about 45 employees but would like to have closer to 50.
“Covering routes and trips, moving all the kids at the same time. Everyone wants to go back to school as normal, but it’s hard to start back up, while being safe and filling all customer needs. Also, industry regulations get harder every year for driver qualification and training and compliance”, is what Brian said when asked what challenges he faces being understaffed.
He also added that many other companies and people are leaving the industry and “it appears that in most places driver shortages is a chronic situation and not getting any better”.
Community Transportation has even changed some of their benefits to pull people in such as increased hourly rates, offered signing bonuses and referral bonuses.
Ashlie Chandler can be contacted at