7 Best Practices for Navigating Summer Vacation Requests

With summer approaching, chances are you’re beginning to receive vacation requests from your employees. Time off is a precious benefit, yet 1 in 3 workers feel pressured not to use it, and of those who do, 60% still work during their time away.

Whether this is your busy season or not, it’s critical that you manage your small business’s vacation policies and procedures the right way. Get it wrong and your operations, customers and brand could take a hit.

To avoid any strife this summer and give your employees the break they’re duly owed, here are seven tips for managing employee time off.

1. Put a Policy and Schedule in Place

As a small business owner, you’re not required to offer a vacation policy — but if you do, you should have a clear idea of who is eligible for vacation time, how they accrue it and what time they have available to take as the summer approaches.

To help manage requests, develop a vacation schedule ahead of time. Establish which employees plan on taking time off and when. If there is a critical window during the summer where you know you need to be fully staffed, black out those dates and let your team know well in advance.

A spreadsheet will work, but of course, there’s always an app that can help. For example, tools such as SoftTime Online and Bindle take the administrative time out of managing vacations. Employees can easily schedule their requests online, and employers can approve and track requests and accruals from a single interface. For more comprehensive time management and scheduling tools, check out When I Work, Deputy, Buddy Punch and more.

2. Be Fair in Your Scheduling Practices

Not everyone plans their vacations at the same time, so it’s important that you institute a scheduling policy that is fair to all your employees. One option includes setting a deadline for receiving vacation requests. In these instances, decide whether you’ll approve requests based on a first-come, first-served policy; on staff seniority; or refer back to last year’s schedule to see who got the time off they wanted and when. This way, you’ll avoid situations where some people always get the entire July Fourth week off while everyone else has to work.

Whatever you decide, make sure you communicate it often and add it to your personnel documentation so everyone’s on the same page.

3. Make Resources for Collaboration Available

Before an employee heads out the door, task them with compiling a cheat sheet of any work in progress, a list of potential issues that may arise while they’re out, contact information for any stakeholders and so on. Ensure their away message is on and an alternative point of contact is offered to field any inquiries.

Cloud-based collaboration and project management tools such as Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive, Google G Suite, Basecamp, Trello and Workfront make it easy for other employees to find what they need and keep projects moving while someone is out. Be sure you have access to what you need ahead of time.

4. Cross-Train Your Staff

If you need to make progress on certain projects while the lead team member is away, parcel their duties out to two or more other employees. Spreading the load will avoid over-burdening one person. To prepare, have those workers shadow employees going on vacation so they can learn what needs to be done, how it should be completed and the resources available to them.

5. Offer Incentives for Working “High-Value” Days

No one really wants to work the day after July Fourth or Labor Day, and many employees take these holidays as an opportunity to enjoy a four-day weekend. This leaves you with a problem: how do you manage vacation requests while balancing the needs of your customers? One option is to reward staff who agree to work on these high-value days. If you have the budget, consider paying them time and a half or offer an extra day off as an incentive.

6. Employ Part-Timers or Seasonal Workers

If your business picks up during seasonal periods and you know you’ll need extra help to cover schedules, consider turning to part-time staffers, seasonal workers or even virtual assistants (many do more than just day-to-day administration duties) who can step in when you have the need.

7. Set Customer Expectations

And finally, let your customers know your summer hours. If you’re closed on the major summer holidays, set expectations. It sounds obvious, but surprisingly few businesses share their holiday hours ahead of time. In our “always on” world, customers forget that small businesses and staff need some R&R, too. Plan on sending an email to your customer base, share your hours on social media and update your website to reflect any changes.

Keep It Running Smoothly

Accommodating vacation requests can be tricky for any business — especially for small-business owners in their busy season. But if you follow these seven tips, you’ll be well on your way to successfully navigating employee schedules and ensuring your business continues to run like a well-oiled machine.

Caron Beesley
Caron Beesley
Caron Beesley is a content marketer and writer. A contributor to SBA, SCORE, and more, Caron is an expert at the nuances of small business ownership, the obstacles and opportunities, and can advise on best practices for success.

See all posts by Caron Beesley
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