Ensuring businesses have an appropriate amount of coverage can be an issue at any point during the year, but it can be extremely challenging during the summer months, as employees are trying to utilize their vacation days to plan long weekends and schedule summer vacations. Often times it may seem like there is nobody in the office towards the end of the week. On top of the planned vacations, there’s always the possibility that employees may take the feared unplanned day off leaving managers scrambling for coverage.
Despite some employee’s best efforts to give sufficient notice prior to their scheduled time off, it’s still common for employers to run into scheduling conflicts. These conflicts may be a result of employees scheduling vacations together, certain weeks being more popular than others due to time off from school, or the crafty idea to extend a holiday weekend. Depending on the size of an employer’s staff, it may be challenging to approve every employee’s request for time off, which could possibly result in unhappy employees.
Although it’s important for employers encourage their employees to take time off and find a work/life balance, business owners and managers have to consider the needs of their business, and to communicate these needs with their employees. Also, it’s essential that employers ensure they are treating all employees fairly when considering the schedule.
There a number of simple steps employers can take to eliminate the stress of scheduling employee vacations, which will hopefully help with making their summers just as relaxing.
1. Create a time off policy – Employers should create an easy to understand time off policy, which clearly states the rules regarding each employee based on position. Some rules may include the amount of paid time off allowed, the necessary amount of notice, and the basis for granting time off to employees.
2. Clearly communicate vacation policies – Managers should go over vacation policies with employees within their first few days with the organization. This can be done with all of the other policies that are initially communicated, and can assist with reducing confusion during the first time off request process. In order to ensure that the staff remains aware of the policies, reminder emails regarding important policies, such as time off policies, can be sent occasionally or during certain peak vacation times.
3. Be fair – A very common complaint among employees related to the vacation scheduling process is that management is playing favorites, for example, employees that have stronger relationships with managers may always find that their requests have been approved, while other employees are having their requests denied. Issues like this can lead to frustrated employees, and an overall decrease in productivity. When there is an actual basis behind the decisions for approving or denying time off requests, there is a much better chance that the decisions will not impact employee morale.
4. Employee communication – Allow open discussions with employees about potential upcoming time off. When employees make possible time off known in advance, managers can plan necessary scheduling changes to prevent any holes in coverage and better plan around approaching deadlines. In addition, managers should encourage employees to communicate their status on any projects they are working on and leaving a list of tasks that may need to be completed while the employee is out to prevent any internal or external issues.
5. Contingency plans – Employers should make an effort to ensure that employees with knowledge of the tasks or projects, which were being worked on by employees with approved time off, will be in the office and are capable of picking up where the out of office employee left off. Contingency plans are easier to prepare if employees submit their time off as early as possible.
6. Plan major jobs/projects around popular vacation times – Although it may not always be possible or easily determinable, it can be extremely beneficial to a business to avoid planning major projects and tasks during times of the year when employees usually plan to go on vacation, as resources are likely to be limited while employees are out on vacation. If management is aware of a period of time during the year that they will need all or most of the employees around for an important project, they can blackout certain days, but this should be done with enough notice for employees to plan accordingly, or it can hurt morale and productivity. To avoid implementing a blackout period, employers can make use of a public employee schedule, that displays all approved and tentative employee time off, as having this information readily available can assist a great deal in planning projects.
By following the tips listed above, employers and employees can work together to help ease the stress of planning summer vacations.
If you would like to know more about this topic, please contact:
Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA