By Marina Pilipenko
Summer months and winter holidays are the much-anticipated vacation seasons, and the hardest time to manage work process. Slowdowns are highly likely, and deadlines become even more demanding than ever. Basically, have to do the usual amount of work with less staff in the office.
Getting people to do extra work is not simple. It usually implies increased workloads, new responsibilities, and, sometimes, forced overtime. For managers, this means more efforts for getting all the planned work done, avoiding confusions and omissions, and meeting set deadlines.
Another important aspect is maintaining productive work environment. That’s especially hard when only half the team is at work and the rest are posting their vacation pictures on social media. How do you keep people focused then on what’s in front of them?
The good news is, vacation seasons never come unexpected. Managers have time to get ready for it, reallocate resources, prepare a plan B to overcome possible difficulties, and minimize the risk of missing project deadlines.
Organize Your Leave Management
In a small company, a special leave management system can seem like a redundancy. Managing absences manually is easier when you have only a few employees, but starting from a medium-sized team it can turn into a nightmare. So if your team is growing, consider using a leave management tool in your workflow.
Whether you decide to manage your team members’ absences in a special system or in a spreadsheet, keep a clear, visual and up-to-date vacation schedule. A visual representation of already booked vacations helps managers understand how much work their team can do and how they can allocate resources the most efficient way. It’s also helpful for deciding on whether to approve or reject new leave requests.
Another important step: set formal deadlines for submitting leave requests. Make it clear to the team that last-minute requests have a good chance to get rejected – especially in the heavy vacation seasons. This will add predictability to work and absence management in the team.
Plan Work in Advance
When planning work for vacation season, be realistic about possible slowdowns. Knowing how much resources you have, you can calculate how much work can actually be done. Your team can hardly perform their work assignments as usual, so estimate reasonably.
While overtime can be sometimes inevitable, don’t allow massive overwork. Protect your team from unrealistic deadlines and expectations: communicate possible work scope to clients and stakeholders, and explain how additional requirements would affect the initial scope.
Develop a Procedure for Handing Work Over
Mostly, missed deadlines, overwork problems and other issues related to vacation season are happening because of poor handover process. Make sure everyone’s duties are clearly documented and every team member is aware of their additional responsibilities – and has agreed to perform additional work.
Encourage communication to ensure that new responsibilities are properly explained and confusions are unlikely. You can also consider setting up a meeting where you inform the team members on how work distribution is changing due to an upcoming vacation season.
Consider Outsourcing or Hiring Temp Workers
Sometimes, slowing down work is not an option. Overtime is usually not a great solution, especially if the team is small and the workload is too high after redistribution. People are also often reluctant to work extra hours, even at an increased rate, when everyone is enjoying summer weather or holiday spirit. In this case, it’s time to consider external help.
If you’re seeing that your team lacks resources for performing work that needs to be done, think of delegating part of it to freelancers or external contractors. Hiring temporary workers to pick up the slack can also be a viable option.
Allow More Flexibility
What a team needs during a vacation season is some productivity boost: employees who remain in the office to cover the vacationers might be challenged by increased workloads and new responsibilities. Flexibility at the workplace has proven to be an efficient way to increase performance and reduce stress – so why not use it as an additional motivator?
For example, flexible schedules can work great for those who are not showing extremely high performance in standard working hours. Also, consider offering your staff the ability to work remotely if you haven’t already: this way, employees can balance their new workloads and their non-work life to get more productive.
Host an Outdoor Event
It’s a shame to be staying in the office when the sun is shining, so why not organizing an extra event for the team members who stay at work? You as a manager want to show appreciation to those who are working hard and making sure that work is done and projects are delivered on time.
As part of this recognition, plan an amusing event for the team. It could be a barbecue, a sports event, a scavenger hunt, or anything else – depending on your team’s preferences. Have your HR team collect feedback on what type of outing the team members would prefer, and make sure it’s inclusive.
Vacation seasons are a hard time for team and project managers, but it doesn’t mean you have to anticipate it with dread. Organize leave management properly, protect your employees from overworking, and do your best to maintain high productivity on the team. Having a clear plan is key here, so make time to prepare for the vacation season challenges in advance.