Make Vacations Work For You!
Small businesses often can’t afford to replace people who are away on vacation. Their time off creates a challenge to keep up with the overall workload. How can the business keep from getting behind? How can it stay profitable when you’re paying someone (or multiple team members) while they’re lying on a beach somewhere?
It is possible to let the team have their vacations and still keep up with things, but first you have to remind yourself how much good it does them to have their annual leave.
Let’s face it, most people work because they need the money and would really rather be somewhere else. Their vacation entitlement is recognition that they spend the best part of most days doing what you want them to do and these few precious weeks of vacation give them a chance to recharge their batteries.
You don’t even have to imagine what would happen if they didn’t have a break. Experiments have been tried where time off was traded for cash in hand and it just didn’t work. The result was declining morale, increased irritability and lower productivity. Other negative consequences included a higher injury level and greater rates of sickness.
One way to help cope with the demands vacations place on you and your business is to make sure all vacations get planned well in advance. This prevents the situation from arising where too many team members are away at the same time, and lets you juggle responsibilities around so that the work of the happy holidaymakers is shared around the remaining members of the team.
It also gives you the chance to notify key clients that their favourite team member won’t be available next month, or to make arrangements with the bank for a different signature on the checks for a while.
Planning ahead gives you the chance to let the rest of your team acquire skills that will otherwise be missing while key people are away. It could be as simple as learning to handle the petty cash or pick up the mail from the post office, or something more involved like learning how to operate a piece of office equipment or a computer program.
Don’t forget, if you don’t provide a means of getting someone’s work done while they’re away it means they’ll come back to a real mess and this can negate the potential benefits to you of their having a holiday.
Technology can be helpful while a team member’s away. Use voicemail to inform callers that the person is on vacation and it can redirect the call to an appropriate alternative. Most email programs provide the facility for an ‘out of office’ notification that can serve the same function.
Some business owners make the mistake of trying to fill in for everyone that’s away on vacation, and there’s nothing worse. You might have all the knowledge about the person’s tasks and how to do them, but inevitably your management functions will suffer. Use existing team members as much as possible, and fill in with temporary staff if it’s really necessary.
Once a vacation has been planned and approved make sure everyone else knows about it so they won’t be put in the position of trying to take a vacation at the same time as others in the business. An annual ‘vacation calendar’ should be on the wall where everyone can see it.
You’ll also find it helpful to have a written vacation policy that’s communicated to everyone in the business. It should say among other things who is eligible for vacations, the rate at which days of vacation accrue, how much notice should be given when requesting a vacation, whose approval is required for a vacation, and whether company equipment or vehicles can be used by team members while they’re away.
And finally, don’t forget that you need a vacation too. All the more reason to be sure you’ve systemized the business and given the team a level of skills that will allow you to enjoy your own time on vacation.
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