It isn’t overly difficult to calculate the costs of sourcing, hiring, and training a new employee.  These are all tangible, recordable costs that can be easily tracked. But what happens if you fail to fill that position in a timely manner? The losses to the company may appear in a variety of ways, but it can be far more difficult to ascribe a dollar value to them. These “empty desk” costs can add up to cost your organization significant money and are worth paying attention to, despite having a less obvious price tag attached. While many are hesitant to make room in the budget for hiring, balking at the immediate costs, it is important to remember that the costs of NOT filling a position are just as real. What do those costs look like?

Loss of Productivity

Productivity is, by far, the most obvious (and perhaps the most easily calculable) cost of an empty desk. Quite simply, you have one less set of hands driving production. A simple calculation can be used to define this cost:

Assuming every employee has a positive impact on the bottom line (which one would hope they do), you can easily calculate your Revenue per Employee by dividing the company’s annual revenue by the number of employees. This annual number can then be divided by days per year to determine the daily cost of a missing employee at the most basic level.


Harder to track than the loss of productivity, burnout is nonetheless a very real cost of a vacant position. The volume of work doesn’t slow down just because you’re shorthanded and other employees are left to pick up the slack. They may have to slow down their own production to keep everything moving, which can adversely affect the bottom line. Pulling double duty in this way is not a sustainable arrangement and will eventually cause burnout in even the most engaged employees. If this doesn’t let up, you may find yourself with even more vacancies, compounding the problem and multiplying the costs exponentially.

Lost Opportunity

Perhaps the most difficult cost to calculate is that of lost opportunities. Every day that you have a vacant position is a day in which a member of your team was unable to contribute by having new ideas, driving current initiatives, or solving existing problems. It is impossible to say what might have been contributed by the employee who will eventually fill the seat, had they been there sooner, but you can be certain that the amount contributed by the empty desk will be steady at zero every day.

Remember these costs the next time you balk at a recruiting fee or are tempted to cut your hiring budget, and don’t be afraid to remind your leadership that – in a very real sense – time is money when it comes to an unfilled job and the dreaded empty desk.

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