How does stuff get done in your company when employees take time off? Every organization has a system for handling employee leave, even if that system is ‘do nothing, stress out, and let remaining team members put out fires’.
Pre-planned extended leaves are easy to work with—craft a contract job description and put it out to your network and job boards. But creating systems and processes for the messy middle of 3-week vacation requests and other unexpected leaves is more nebulous. We’ve put together four ideas for managing planned (and unplanned) leaves that will get you thinking about how you can bring order and productivity to even your unspoken processes.
Develop a culture that values vacation
This may seem like an odd place to start, but bear with us. According to a Glassdoor survey, only 26% of Americans take their full vacation time. Does that mean people don’t like vacation? No. They just feel like they can’t. Which means they feel awkward asking for time off. Which means they wait until the last minute, and everything gets bunched up. If you create a culture that highly values time off to recharge, employees will openly plan ahead, giving you the margin you need to create smooth coverage well ahead of time.
Have a scheduling plan
On the first day of each new quarter, employees should know exactly when vacation requests are due. And to set the tone that managers have the ability to veto requests, employees can submit “Option A” and “Option B” requests. That way, employees know there’s a chance they might not get Option A, and managers have an easy out by picking Option B instead of crushing their employees vacation plans. Creating an orderly vacation submission schedule with multiple options means managers never get surprised, and employees don’t get disappointed.
Create a vacation standard operating procedure
Most companies have employees fill out a vacation request that their manager needs to sign off on, and that’s about it. But to effectively manage a distributed workload, there needs to be more concrete communication in place. For example, vacationing employees should fill out a report detailing the status of their projects, the work that needs to be completed while they’re away, and key contacts and vendors that will be instrumental for keeping momentum. Once this report is signed off on by a manager, it will become obvious how much coverage is needed for the duration of the leave. Which leads to our next point.
Hire temporary staff as needed
Once you have a clear picture of exactly how much work is going to be distributed among your team during a given absence, the gaps will be obvious. If you work in an industry such as retail, hospitality, or healthcare, then “just making do” won’t cut it. You need to hire additional staff who can maintain momentum and serve guests without a hitch. Partnering with a staffing agency can give you coverage well in advance, as well as cover last-minute absences that nobody planned for. In short, you’ll never be left short-staffed in a crunch.
Just writing out on paper what your current vacation management process will help you identify the inefficient parts. And once you start to implement some of the ideas in this post, your employees will begin to feel that vacations are a cause for celebration, not stress.
PS: When you’re down a staff member temporarily, what is the real cost to the organization? Find out with our Cost of Absenteeism worksheet.