We’re all entitled to holidays away from our work. Taking them is important for all of us, so that we can recharge our batteries and hopefully coming back refreshed and more productive.
But managing staff holiday schedules can be a challenge, especially in peak holiday seasons when nearly everyone wants time off. For example, many people want to get away during the summer months or to visit family and friends during Christmas and New Year. School holidays are another peak time. It can be especially challenging to manage staff holiday schedules if you’re in an industry where your business’ workload increases during peak holiday seasons. If you’re a manager, you need to make sure you always have enough staff on deck for your business to function effectively. Not everyone can take holidays at the same time. Here are some tips to help you manage staff holiday schedules.
Have a shared holiday calendar
Your staff will realise that it’s impractical for too many people to be off work at once. The ones left behind wouldn’t be able to cope, and you can be sure they wouldn’t like to be placed in that position themselves.
If you have a shared holiday calendar where your staff can view the already approved leave of their colleagues before they plan their own holidays and submit their own leave requests, they’ll be more likely to work in with your business needs. This transparency helps to promote a positive organisational culture, which has many flow-on benefits.
Ensure the workload is covered while your staff are on holidays
There’s nothing worse than coming back from a holiday to a mountain of work because no-one has covered for you while you’re away. Or worse still, being interrupted with emails and phone calls on your time off, unless of course it’s an emergency. If you don’t cover a staff member’s workload while they’re away on holidays, two things will happen:
1) your business will suffer because work won’t be getting done;
2) you’ll most likely end up with a disgruntled staff member. And the last thing you want to do is lose good staff.
To help avoid those issues, take steps to cover the workload of your staff while they’re on leave. If you don’t, you’ll potentially give them a reason to look for a better organised employer.
But your solution shouldn’t just be to just pile the work onto your staff who aren’t on holidays. That’s a sure-fire way to make them disgruntled as well. Planning and co-ordinating your staff’s holiday schedules as much as possible is an important part of a manager’s role. There are several strategies you can implement, like hiring temps or casuals to help cover for your staff while they’re away on leave.
Reallocate tasks and responsibilities
Planning for when a staff member is going to be on holidays should start well before they take leave. You should already have a very good idea of what they do from an up-to-date job description, but you make sure you talk to them before they leave so you’re aware of any pressing issues that may need to be resolved while they’re away.
Reallocating their tasks and responsibilities will be necessary. Again, this requires planning well in advance. Cross-training and upskilling your staff as part of the ongoing HR development in your organisation makes good business sense. It allows you to cover for people when they’re away on leave, as well as generally develop a more capable and talented workforce.
You shouldn’t leave yourself in the position where only one person has the knowledge and skills to perform a role. That only leaves your business vulnerable to that person taking holidays, or worse still, leaving your organisation altogether.
Communicate well in advance
You should communicate any reallocation of tasks and responsibilities as soon as you’re aware that one of your staff will be away on holidays. This ensures that everyone is aware of the holiday contingency plan you want to implement. They can clarify any issues with you or the person who is going on holidays before they go.
Motivate your staff who are staying behind
Sometimes businesses operate with skeleton staff during peak holiday seasons (i.e. the minimum number of staff required to operate a business, or a significantly reduced number). It’s important to note that these staff might want to be on holidays as well, but may have stayed behind for the well-being of your business. Or you may not have been able to approve their holiday request because others got in first.
These staff are likely to need some extra motivation. That motivation could include both financial and non-financial rewards. For example, you could give them a bonus or a gift for their dedication. Or you could publicly acknowledge their important contribution during the holiday season via the company newsletter, email or intranet. That shows them that their efforts are appreciated.
Have flexible working arrangements
One way to avoid staff building up significant amounts of leave and then taking large chunks of holiday time is by offering flexible working arrangements. For example, you might offer a compressed work schedule, where your staff can take a day off every week or two to achieve a greater work/life balance. Each day off they take can be a paid holiday.
They are likely to stay fresher for longer using this approach, and it can be preferable for your business that they take regular single days off rather than a few weeks at a time.
Be consistent with how you approve holidays
The final piece of advice is to be consistent with your holiday approval policies. If you approve holiday requests for some and not others without any transparent consistency, that will just breed staff resentment.
A “first in, best dressed” policy is the safest. In other words, the earlier that staff give you notice of when they want to take holidays, the more likely it should be that the request will be approved, provided you’ll still have enough staff or can implement measures to cover for them.
Do you have any other tips for managers? Let us know in the comments below!