How to create a system that works for (almost) everybody
Minimize summer scheduling headaches by creating a fair and practical vacation policy up-front. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create a system: Ask employees to submit their vacation requests in writing, and create deadlines and guidelines for highly desirable times of year. That way, you can look at multiple requests for potential conflicts or issues, and negotiate if necessary. Use a shared calendar like Outlook to keep everybody in the loop and head off scheduling mistakes.
- Put a cap on absences: When too many employees are absent, it's tough to maintain business operations. Consider limiting the number of employees who can be absent on any given day, and encourage employees to put in important requests early.
- Offer flexibility: If your business structure includes smaller departments, it might make the most sense to allow individual groups to work things out for themselves. Some departments can run on fewer employees better than others, and each group will have a different idea of how to make vacation scheduling work without negatively impacting workflow.
- Consider those left behind: If you're a manager, remember that when you're approving a vacation, you're also implicitly nominating somebody else to pick up the slack. Make sure the employees who stick around are forewarned and, if they're taking on extra duties, properly trained and not overloaded with more work than they can reasonably handle.
- Don't play favorites: Employees are not required to give a "good reason" to take time off, and a fair policy won't need to take reasons into account when granting it, either. Be clear about how vacation time is earned and requested, and how conflicting requests will be dealt with and stick to it.
- Insist on vacation: As much as we complain about being overworked and too busy, most of us never take full advantage of the vacation benefits offered by our employers. Regardless of when they do it, encourage your employees to take time off, without taking work with them. Don't perpetuate the myth that any one employee is so important that business will grind to a halt if they sit on the beach without their laptop for a week.
Remember, it's your business that will feel the effects if too many employees are gone at the same time. So while it's important to have a policy that employees view as fair, it's unlikely that you're going to please everyone. Learn to say no when it makes sense, and be willing to revise your policy if it's not working.
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