Peak vacation challenges
There are bound to be periods of time, particularly in the summer, when a lot of your employees are on vacation or otherwise out of the office. While this is to be expected, if you’re too short-staffed, work will accumulate and the quality of your employee experience and customer experience alike will suffer.
From staffing shortages, to reduced productivity and efficiency, increased burnout among remaining employees who are picking up the slack (some of whom may not be properly trained to do so), slower decision-making processes, to dissatisfied customers, the mountain one must climb in anticipation of a peak vacation period is vast to say the least.
Suffice it to say, planning ahead is crucial—with proper planning, the small and large tasks holding your operation together won’t be neglected and your business can maintain its reputation as a smooth operator.
This year, consider the following strategies for managing employee workloads in the lead-up to summer vacation:
- Emphasize workload balance. Above all, the importance of maintaining workload balance—and by extension, work-life balance—should be treated as a fundamental principle that you hold close to your heart. Not only because doing so maintains employee wellbeing and prevents burnout but also because it boosts productivity and is suitable for business. And don’t forget to include yourself in this balanced ecosystem. A manager who never takes their PTO and keeps working through a continual state of burnout may find employees doing the same, to detrimental effect. Hot tip: the best way not to overwork employees who happen to be working through the summer is to plan for employee vacations well in advance.
- Communicate proactively—ahead of time. Advance proactive planning and communication is integral to managing workloads, and having a clear and accessible time off request policy is a great first step. Managing time-off requests fairly and with foresight is everything, after all. Be sure that your policy outlines when time-off requests are and aren’t permitted. For instance, some companies create rules which dictate certain particularly busy times of year as off-limits for PTO. The important thing here, however, is communicating this immediately to prospective new hires. Additionally, during the vacation scheduling phase, be sure to communicate altered schedules clearly with your team and stakeholders—doing so can prevent a lot of confusion.
- Delegate and distribute work effectively. Anticipate your employees’ vacation schedules and distribute work according and effectively—and don’t wait until the week before the vacation to start thinking about it. You’ll want to assess the workload of remaining employees to determine their capacity to take on additional work. Take great care to avoid overburdening employees who are already have regular responsibilities. Consider employee skillsets and experience levels and delegate tasks and projects to the appropriate people based on their expertise and availability. It should go without saying, but be sure to communicate expectations clearly so everyone’s on the same page, and provide necessary support or resources so employees aren’t left flailing.
- Prioritize tasks and projects. The importance of prioritizing tasks and projects during high-demand periods cannot be overstated. By setting priorities, you are better able to allocate limited resources (including staff and time) more effectively. This helps ensure that critical, urgent and/or customer-facing tasks and projects top the list, thereby helping to maintain productivity, meet deadlines, and keep up a satisfactory level of service in spite of a reduced workforce. Ultimately, by focusing on core tasks and projects, your organization can optimize operations and avoid wasting time and energy on lower-priority or non-essential activities. Those can wait until you’re fully staffed again.
- Consider flexible scheduling. In the post-Covid landscape, flexible work arrangements like remote or hybrid work are fast becoming second nature, so it’s best to keep an open mind. Overall, flexible arrangements tend to contribute to a more robust capacity for business continuity. Since employees working remotely or hybrid can tackle their responsibilities regardless of their physical location, the company’s dependency on staff members who are taking a well-deserved vacation is vastly reduced. Additionally, should an employee’s return flight get delayed, the capacity for remote work means they can start back on time regardless.
- Explore temporary support options. Sometimes, particularly if you have the budget or other resources, exploring temporary support options available to you is simply the best way to go.
Your options might include any of the following:
- Cross-training: The purpose of “cross-training” is to build the skills of everyone in the company so everyone better understands everyone else’s role. The best case scenario, during a peak vacation period, is that employees from other departments who happen to have similar skillsets or knowledge may be able to provide temporary support. Cross-departmental collaboration also tends to promote a sense of teamwork within an organization.
- Hiring temporary staff: Hiring temporary employees, contractors, or freelancers can be an effective solution to address staffing gaps during peak vacation periods. Temporary hires can be brought in to fill specific roles or projects and provide additional support to existing employees. Internship or co-op programs may also offer opportunities for students to gain practical experience while simultaneously supporting your company’s workload.
- Automating where possible: Taking advantage of available automation tools and tech solutions can go a long way toward streamlining workflows and upping efficiency during peak vacation periods. For instance, robotic process automation (RPA), workflow management systems, and task automation can all help reduce manual effort and optimize operations, minimizing your need for added temporary support.
Bottom line: by taking these simple yet effective tips to heart, you’re ensuring that your business is not only prepared for the holiday rush this summer but that it can thrive year-round!