Many employees look forward to this time of year when they plan to use their vacation time. As an employer you want to do everything you can to accommodate requests for time off and give valued employees much needed time away from the office. But, what happens if too many employees are scheduling vacation for the same week or weeks? Do you find yourself in the difficult position of having to decide who can take off and who must stay?
Conflict is inevitable but some advance planning and managing expectations up front can make this situation a bit easier to handle.
Here are few tips to help you avoid being overwhelmed by summer vacation schedules:
- Upfront Conversations – When employees are hired, review the company’s vacation policy and procedures. If there are times when vacation time is restricted make sure to point it out. New hires may only hear how many days or weeks they get for vacation time and not pay attention to the appropriate procedures for requesting that time off. Make sure they understand how far in advance they need to request time off and how to obtain the required permissions.
- Technology Help - You may have an Intranet at your organization that will allow you to publish a “shared” time off calendar. This can allow employees to see what’s going on with the entire department. While it may not prohibit someone from requesting time off when they know that staffing will be thin, it may encourage others to plan accordingly.
- Reminders – Before peak vacation request times, it may be helpful to send out a communication reminding everyone of vacation policies and procedures. It will help to make difficult conversations easier in the event you have to tell an employee they cannot take vacation because they did not request the time far enough in advance or did not get the appropriate approvals.
- Prepare for Absent Workers – If other employees are covering the workload, schedule a meeting with everyone involved so they know where to find important work product, necessary contact information, and anything else critical to making it a smooth transition. A week off may seem like a short time until that person has left and no one knows how to cover his or her responsibilities.
- Review Your Business Cycle - By understanding your least busy and most busy times of the year, you may be able to develop some incentives for having employees schedule vacations during off-peak times. Then you can encourage or incentivize employees to take vacation time during slow periods or forgoing vacation during peak times.
- Develop a Vacation Policy – While there is no law that requires you to you’re your workers paid vacation days, more than 90% of all full-time employees in private industry receive paid vacation according to 2011 figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics
If your company does offer paid time off, a written policy detailing exactly what is offered and the rules around taking that time, is essential. Without a written policy, you could find yourself with a very thin staff and no recourse for addressing the situation making your life very stressful.
Vacation policies are typically part of an overall Employee Handbook, the backbone of business operations. So, if you have been remiss in developing a written policy, this may be the perfect time to consider finally putting some structure around vacation, sick and personal time off. It could make your summertime a bit more relaxing in the future.
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