When the pandemic went global in 2020, millions of people were forced to stop working due to government-sanctioned lockdowns and closures. When things started to reopen, some people returned to work, but many others did not. As a result, companies were forced to operate without adequate staff or remain closed indefinitely.

Many wondered when things would return to normal. It’s two years later, and businesses big and small continue to face a labor shortage. While many small business owners are quick to put the blame on a poor work ethic among the country’s younger population, the truth is it doesn’t matter. You don’t have time to play the blame game.

Small business owners need labor shortage solutions starting now. While each business is different and thus the right solutions will vary, the following are seven ways small business owners are solving their labor shortage problems:

Rethinking management

Many business leaders have spent the last few years looking inward. They discover their management practices could use some improvement. Employees have a right to be treated with dignity and fairness. Those who feel abused by the business they work for are understandably unwilling to return if they can avoid doing so. With this in mind, small business owners may want to consider ways they can provide a better work environment for their employees as a way to get people to come back.

Automating tasks

History shows automation is a great job eliminator. It’s impossible to count all the ways machines and technology have replaced human labor. It’s a trend that continues to this day. As a result, many small business owners are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on employees. From software to robotics, there are many possibilities out there. They won’t work for every business environment, but even one upgrade to automation can lead to the elimination of a corresponding job. In doing so, business owners avoid the stress of finding replacement workers and save money in the process.

Outsourcing labor

Another job eliminator – though it’s more of a job shifter – is outsourcing. Companies are opting to move production overseas, where labor is not only readily available, it’s also more affordable. Hiring foreign workers is even more practical for businesses operating exclusively online, as there’s little to no need to build new facilities. Using global payroll services enables small business owners to safely and securely pay employees anywhere in the world. While language barriers continue to be a challenge, software is making that easier as well.

Limiting hours

Many business owners have been forced to limit their hours of operation in response to the labor shortage. Though not ideal, doing so enables small businesses to continue serving customers albeit in a limited capacity.  Sales plummet, but so does overhead. While cutting back hours isn’t something any business owner wants to do, it helps retain customer loyalty in situations where you’d otherwise lose them for good. That way, if you solve your labor shortage problem and can return to your previous schedule, it’s not like starting all over again.

Paying more

Offering competitive wages remains the single most effective way to find workers. Unfortunately, many small business owners are reluctant to do so, for fear of hurting their bottom line. Yet more are realizing they don’t have a choice. It’s either pay your workers more and earn less profit, or don’t earn any profit at all. With so many large corporations choosing to increase their minimum wage, smaller organizations have no choice but to do so too. After all, who wants to bus tables for less than they’d make working at Wal-Mart?

Offering more

Providing employees with benefits is another way companies are getting people to return to work. For many people, having employer-provided healthcare has never seemed more important. The same goes for work-life balance. With this in mind, businesses may be able to offer healthcare and paid time off to employees without increasing wages. It’s still added overhead, but it’s less of a money-sucker as an increase in payroll.

Doing more

As the old saying goes, “If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.” Small business owners faced with the labor shortage are increasingly choosing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work themselves. Restaurant owners are serving tables, landscape company CEOs are trimming trees, and dry cleaner operators are running the machines themselves. While most can’t wait to get back to running the company, others are surprisingly satisfied with the sense of accomplishment they feel after a hard day’s work. Pocketing more money doesn’t hurt either.

While many hoped the labor shortage would end by now, the reality is it’s far from over. Owners are forced to think of ways to stay in business without the workers they need.