It may sound obvious, but a structured annual leave policy is key to managing leave fairly and effectively. Ensure that staff and managers are all on the same page with a formalised holiday strategy. Consider your peak periods – if there are any particularly busy times for the business (the end of the fiscal year for an accountancy firm, for example), implement a rule that there will be no leave at this time. When creating your policy, think about the following:
A centralised HR database where staff can see who is unavailable and when, is sure to prove very useful. If an employee can see that three members of his or her team have the two weeks at the beginning of August off, it’s unlikely that he or she will expect to take leave at the same time. Visibility is key. There are a number of online, cloud-based HR tools that can help with this, take a look at CharlieHR or naturalhr.
It’s likely that your busiest annual leave periods will run from the beginning of July right the way through to mid-September. With the right amount of planning, it’s possible for companies to plan key business objectives and major deliverables away from this time. If you know you’ll be working with a reduced staff, then it’s an idea to manage your customers’ expectations regarding this too.
If, like many businesses, you don’t have the option of quietening down for the summer and will be affected by annual leave, consider how many people in each department will be needed to deliver business objectives. Next, set a limit on how many staff can take leave at any one time. With an effective annual leave policy, staff holiday can operate on a first-come, first-served basis which is usually agreeable to all.
This can be a tough one if a staff member is pleading with you to take the same week as a colleague. While staff are, of course, entitled to their annual leave, business owners and line managers are also entitled to decline the request if their absence will have a negative impact on business. As long as there is consistency in your policy, then most staff members should be understanding about this.
To ensure that the business runs smoothly while staff are on leave, a pre-leave checklist could be implemented. This will differ from business to business but could include:
If you know you’re likely to be stretched over the summer period, then it may be a good idea for line managers to sit down with their teams and prioritise responsibilities. If a staff member has a large and complicated assignment to complete, then more basic tasks can be delegated to junior team members.
Similarly, when an office is working with a skeleton staff, it is an idea to highlight which jobs are business critical and which can feasibly wait until there is more staff to share the workload. Planning is key, and the responsibility will fall on management to ensure that there are enough staff members and sufficient time to get the necessary work done.
This is often overlooked by employers and line managers but there is work to be done when an employee returns from leave. In an ideal world, staff members would return from their holidays fully refreshed and raring to get back to work but in reality, they’re likely to be tired from travelling and may have a case of the post-holiday blues!
Rather than scheduling back-to-back meetings for their first day back, ease them in gently. Allow them a day or two to catch up on missed emails and to check in with their colleagues. On their second day, perhaps schedule a debriefing to fill them in on any issues that have arisen in their absence. This will make for a smooth transition back to work and ensure any leftover holiday lethargy is gone in no time.
With a clear policy in place, you can ensure that your team are happy, and your office’s output doesn’t suffer.
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