5 Tips for Surviving Employee Vacations

Erin Cushing
Aug 01, 2016

managing summer vacations

We’re headed into the dog days of summer, where scores of employees take their well-deserved vacation days and head for the pool, the beach, or the closest air-conditioned movie theater. The problem for managers, however, is dealing with multiple vacation requests. What do you do when half your team asks for the same week off? Here are some of our best tips for managing employee vacations:

Set Expectations about Vacation Time During the Hiring and Onboarding Process

Vacation and PTO can be touchy subjects, so it’s best to get them out in the open early on in an employee’s lifecycle – namely, in recruiting and onboarding. Make sure your new hires clearly understand your organization’s policies around requesting time off and using PTO appropriately. It’s also a good idea to directly address peak work periods for your organization when PTO might be restricted. These peak periods don’t necessarily stop with summer vacation - if your organization has seasonal work peaks, this conversation is particularly important. If these periods where vacation time might be restricted coincide with religious holidays or commitments, make sure that you discuss this potential conflict frankly with employees, and be prepared to make concessions if needed.

Establish PTO Submission Timelines – and Stick to Them

Summertime is a season of opportunity – the weather can be beautiful, and maybe one day you wake up on a sunny Friday morning and decide today is too nice a day to sit in an office all day. But if too many people on your team decide the same thing, your department could be left hanging. Curb this summer exodus by establishing a policy that creates a timeframe for when PTO requests must be submitted. Don’t make it too rigid as to make PTO unrealistic, but be firm in maintaining those timeframes so that you can plan ahead for employee absences.

Help Arrange for Coverage

Of course, employees will take time off throughout the year; it’s important for employees to be able to unplug and recharge away from work. Since you have set policies in place that will let you know well in advance when there will be gaps in employee attendance, help your team and the impending vacationer sort out who will cover what in their absence. Make sure all of the information needed to cover projects is accessible to the team members who will be helping out. Also, make sure work is evenly distributed – not only is it unfair to expect one person to take up the bulk of additional work, but it is unrealistic that one person will be able to cover another while still completing their own work.

Involve Employees in Decisions

On those occasions where multiple employees ask for the same time period off, bring the team together to discuss possible compromises and solutions. There might be a way to accommodate all of these requests, but it will require give and take from every team member to be successful. Otherwise, you as the manager might have to step in and make some tough decisions.

Know When to Say No

Sometimes, there will be an instance where you simply cannot accommodate someone’s PTO request. When that happens, clearly communicate why they cannot take the time off they asked for, and help find a better timeframe for them to take their PTO. Make sure that you’re not excessively restricting employees from leaving on prime vacation days, but if it’s a real problem for the team or organization to not have that employee working through that time period, it’s up to you as manager to make and communicate that decision.

Finally, remember that you should take some time off too – managers need to recharge too!

Managers need the right tools and partners in order to effectively manage their teams throughout the year, not just during the summer. See why so many organizations choose PeopleFluent as their performance management partner.  

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