As a small business owner, it's not always easy to oblige when staff come in search of vacation time, particularly during peak periods such as school holidays.
So, what's the best way to keep your valued employees happy while also ensuring your business keeps humming along? With planning and preparation, you can satisfy vacation requests without having to sacrifice sales and productivity.
Take a collaborative approach to scheduling
At small businesses, where cohesive bonds between team members are so vital to success, it's often better to take a collaborative approach to vacation scheduling. Rather than making all the arrangements yourself and forcing people to live with the outcome, bring everyone together to sort it out as a group. Compromise and understanding are more easily achieved when staffers sit face-to-face with their fellow employees and hear the reasons behind individual requests.
Consider blackout dates
There may be times throughout the year when you need all hands on deck. If so, you may wish to block off certain periods when no one is allowed to take vacation. Whatever your policies are, make sure they're clearly communicated when you hire new employees - it will help avoid the possibility of confusion and resentment later on.
Handle scheduling well in advance
Last-minute requests are likely to throw you for a loop, so do what you can to eliminate them by requiring vacations of significant length to be approved at least two weeks in advance, if not longer, or by a predetermined date each year. The more lead time you have to prepare for the absence of a key employee, the better equipped you'll be to survive when they're away.
Make a plan before employees leave
Avoid having details slip through the cracks by sitting down with employees before they leave for vacation and compiling a list of all the important, time-sensitive projects they're working on. Decide who'll be responsible for handling each of that person's duties while they're away. Make a note of any relevant projects, deadlines, contact information, and other key points. Store the document in a safe place - it will be an invaluable resource in case any questions come up.
Prepare staff to handle multiple roles
The more versatile an employee is, the more valuable they are to your small business. Rather than pigeonholing people into fixed roles, train your staff to be able to step into several different jobs at any time. That way, when one person goes away you'll already have a replacement ready to step in.
Hire temporary workers or virtual assistants
If you can afford it, overcome absences by bringing in temporary workers or assigning work to an offsite virtual assistant. These valuable aides help you stay on top of things, but don't require the same number of weekly hours or benefits as a full-time employee. They may, however, require some training in your procedures and protocols before getting up to speed, so remember to factor that into your planning. If you're fortunate, you may find someone worth bringing back during future absences or adding to your permanent staff.
Although it can be a struggle when employees at your small business take vacation, it's important to remember there's also a positive side to staff absences. While it's tough to survive without them, your hard-working employees deserve some downtime in order to avoid burnout, and will return to work refreshed, recharged, and ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.