Staying productive during the summer can be hard. From beach vacations to summer wedding season, employees have more demands on their time and a spike in distractions. Let’s be honest — it’s tempting to take a day off to head to the coast or have a long weekend just to be at home enjoying the good weather.
As a result, businesses have to get creative in how they move the goalpost forward on their objectives with staff missing a day here and there or taking longer vacations. According to the Time Off Project, Americans earned more vacation last year — but 54% of employees ended the year with unused vacation time. For companies, despite the challenges summer poses, it’s important that employees take vacations. Inc. reports that taking a vacation does more than reset and rejuvenate. It helps employees be more productive overall.
For business owners and managers, here are some key strategies to staying productive and on track with your goals during summer vacation season.
Encourage Advanced Scheduling and Vacation Management Technology
One of the most important factors to help employers prepare for vacation time is advanced planning. Consider leveraging a scheduling software to manage time-off requests and manager approvals. The more time your policies require for notification and approvals, the less likely having a key employee out of the office will disrupt workflow or customer service.
Automated tools feed the information into a master scheduling program. Whether you’re anticipating employee coverage needs or tracking vacation days, integrating this technology for requests, approvals and scheduling will save time and help avoid staffing crises.
Certain roles simply require that employees wrap up their work before leaving for vacation, set an out-of-office message and pick up the thread where they left off when they get back. In other cases, projects or duties can be delegated to other workers to ensure they’re completed. However, some positions simply require that there’s coverage on-site at all times during business hours.
Creating plans for alternate staffing can help managers cover staffing gaps. There are several options to consider. Many companies turn to temporary agencies or on-demand staffing companies that can help you find a range of talent, from administrative assistants to sales reps, on short notice. Another approach is cultivating relationships with freelance talent or outside vendors. One organization I worked with had a freelance designer who would pick up projects when one of the company’s eight graphics or creative professionals was out of the office. Define your needs and have a strategy for filling those positions that can’t go without coverage.
Establish Clear Summer Vacation Policies and Norms
Companies that have clear vacation policies — especially those that outline expectations for what happens before, during and after vacation — are less likely to be stranded. Consider asking all employees who will be out of the office to:
- Meet with their manager or supervisor at least one day before they depart to provide a status update on work, highlight unexpected issues that might need attention while they’re out and answer any questions.
- Provide contact information such as a phone number or email account that they’ll be checking in case of a true emergency.
- Clarify expectations about communications. Some companies forbid employees from checking in while on vacation; others work with employees to ensure they’re checking in once a day. Be clear about your culture in this regard.
- Employ good vacation hygiene, including professional email out-of-office messages and voicemails that strike the right tone and provide the contact information for a backup person.
- Schedule a back-in-the-office meeting for the first or second day back from vacation, to quickly get the employee up to speed and focused on the most urgent priorities.
Project Management Tools
Another strategy that can help make vacations successful is being clear about what deliverables need to be completed before an employee leaves. It’s no fun to go on vacation having to take work with you or having uncompleted projects and looming deadlines in mind. Managers or other team members who are covering for someone on vacation might need access to company notes. With project management tools, progress on specific initiatives is documented and anyone with the appropriate access rights will be able to see the information they need. Ensure that employees who are leaving for vacation have their project plans up to date and all notes entered into the system.
Collaboration tools can turn a vacation emergency into an easy-to-solve issue. Imagine that an employee delivers a presentation to her boss and then heads out on vacation. After reviewing the document before presenting it to a client, there are some urgent questions about the numbers. With collaboration tools, the manager and employee can hop online together and view the document. Thanks to smooth communications tools, the employee can quickly answer questions and get back to her vacation. Explore how collaboration tools can make any interruptions as stress free as possible.
Voice and Unified Communications
Streamlined communications tools can also help keep things moving smoothly when people are out of the office. The right phone system, for example, makes it easy to forward an employee’s line to another colleague for monitoring. VoIP also allows employees to route calls from their business phone to either a cell phone or another employee, so any customer or client calling won’t have to wait on their request. Should an emergency occur, voice products will let your employee call into the office from anywhere in the world. The specific services you might leverage are different, but reliable communications can help both employer and employee trust that any issues that arise during a vacation can be quickly resolved.
It’s in your interest to encourage your employees to go on vacation and recharge their batteries. However, it’s also important to make sure workflows continue uninterrupted and that your business doesn’t suffer. The right technology tools, advanced planning and backup plans in case of an emergency will help you stay productive during summer vacation season with ease.