A CEO’s Advice for Preparing for Summer Staff Outages

Summer is prime time for vacations. Ease the burden by planning ahead with your employees.

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Come June, business tends to slow, sometimes to a pace more befitting of a snail. Clients are less responsive, or they are out of the office. And even if they are working, chances are good that their mind’s eye is already fixed on the vacation to come — that, or the “cat” is away, naturally leaving the mice to play. Translation: Most people are checked out, so do not expect to get anything substantial done.

Although such a slowdown can be unnerving to some, a silver lining does exist: It is the perfect opportunity for your team to unwind and recharge. A workplace that encourages vacation experiences increased occupational happiness among its employees. And as you probably know, happy employees are more productive — about about 20% more. Happiness can improve sales by as much as 37%, and on top of that, a vacation can go a long way toward preventing burnout among staff.

Of course, not every employee will take a vacation. But many will, and the sudden influx of vacation requests can leave business owners frantic. Thankfully, there are some steps leaders can take to plan ahead and ease the burden:

1. Talk with employeesWaiting until the last minute to discuss the summer months does nothing more than lead to multiple employees planning to take vacations at the same time. Or it places undue burden on those left holding the short straw. Rather than use a “first come, first served” approach, set a deadline for submissions. Drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, not only prompts timelier requests, but it also prevents employees from feeling like they missed out on an opportunity to take time off.

2. Solicit alternatives. Obviously, not everyone can be out of the office at the same time, so request that staff members submit alternate dates along with their time-off preferences. While a few team members will certainly not get their first choice, at least you can offer another time that they have already determined works for them.

3. Keep it fair. During the holiday season, particular vacation days will always be coveted more than others. Thanksgiving, anyone? But the same holds true during the summer. To be equitable, consider the rota system, in which there is a succession in order to distribute first preferences evenly. For example, if Judy took a week off around the Fourth of July last year, Duane gets dibs this year.

4. Reassess your coverage. Redundancy is essential to business. But when it comes to key team members, it becomes paramount. Err on the side of caution by making sure you have coverage in place to keep work moving when any one team member is on vacation — even the boss. In addition to providing continued service to clients, this can also reduce the stress and disorientation that many employees experience when they come back to work that has been piling up since their vacation started.

5. Set expectations. You have done your due diligence to prepare for employee vacations, but can you say the same for your team? Make sure staff members devise a game plan for vacation days. Alerting co-workers and clients and setting up out-of-office replies should be at the top of the list, but creating a summary of any ongoing projects (including current status, next steps, etc.) can also be helpful.

As a leader, it is your duty to ensure employees take the vacation days they have so justly earned. Burnout is a real thing, after all. If you want a productive, engaged, and healthy workforce, times of respite are a necessity. Encourage all team members to get out of the office regularly — and, by all means, plan accordingly.

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