Montana has a very short and glorious summer.  That means everyone wants to take advantage of the weather and get out and enjoy the season.  And, they all want to take vacation time to do so.  It can be a challenge when all your employees are trying to squeeze in their vacations all at about the same time.  What is a small business owner to do?

It is not hard to imagine a scenario where both your sales people and the manager all request the Fourth of July weekend off.  Oh and by the way, your niece is getting married that weekend and you were hoping to take the time off as well.  A little advance organization and clear vacation policies can help with this situation and most others.  The key is clarity and consistency upfront.  Not everyone can get away at the same time, but with a little planning, everyone should be able to get away for some summer fun. 

It is important to have a written vacation policy.  A good policy will define who is eligible for paid vacation time, how the time accrues, the scheduling process, and how disputes over high-demand days will be handled.  It is also helpful to establish a carryover policy for unused days and determine what happens to unused days when an employee separates from the company.

Here are some tips to help minimize employee vacation issues during peak times.

  • Review and explain the vacation policy with all new hires. It helps to remind existing employees of the policy leading up to peak vacation times as well.  If you anticipate a particularly challenging time period, bring it up sooner rather than later so everyone is on the same page.
  • You are a business and must be able to meet the demands and keep the doors open. Sometimes this means rearranging schedules.  Let employees know that they may be asked to change their vacation.  But only do this on a very rare occasion and be respectful if they have purchased airline tickets or event tickets.  If you work with them, they will work with you.
  • Establish clear deadlines for requesting vacation time. This allows you to manage scheduling to cover their absence and resolve any potential conflicts. 
  • Plan for absences so that the workload is evenly distributed and you don’t overburden the folks left to cover for the person on vacation. Make sure the person going on vacation leaves clear instructions of what to do in their absence.  Where projects stand.  Who needs follow up, etc?  Check lists help soon-to-be vacationers leave organized notes and instructions. 
  • You might even consider offering incentives to those employees who agree to work during peak vacation times to reward those who are willing to stay and man the ship.
  • Create a consistent system to track vacations so employees know where they stand and you can better plan.

Whatever your vacation policy and process is, make sure you are fair.  Being fair and firm will help retain good employees.

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