How to Maintain Workplace Productivity During the Summer Vacation Season
Last Fall we wrote about how to get organized and manage your team’s hectic holiday schedules and still get all the end-of-year tasks done.
The same challenge is back, this time with summer vacations: How do you, as a leader, juggle all the vacation time you want your team to take and still keep productivity up and goals met?
As a with-it leader of people, you know skimping on vacation time is counterproductive because employees really do get recharged by being away, and come back much more creatively engaged. So it is your best interest to make sure to encourage every employee to take all the time-off they deserve for traveling or other forms of rejuvenation time.
Still, you don’t get any breaks in your assigned goals because “it’s summer.” How best to get everyone to collaborate on keeping all the project moving while you are short-staffed?
As is usual with most business challenges, the answer is no mystery:
Think ahead, collaborate with team members, and craft a plan to follow. And make it your top priority starting today, as July is mere weeks away.
Gather all vacation day plans into one schedule for your group.
- Have a detailed discussion with each employee about their plans, and share all the information with each team member.
- Negotiate ahead of time with the team to stagger their time off so that a steady number of people are at work throughout the summer. (It may be a bit late to pull this off this year, but calendar a “vacation discussion” in early May for next year!)
- Share your employee schedules with those other groups that may be impacted by your reduced staffing. Work with each employee to detail who those people might be. Ample warning of time off should go to these people and groups.
- In addition, by having a visual of who’ll be there and who’ll be gone, managers and team members will have ample time to adjust their own schedules to accommodate extra duties.
Nail down what needs to happen before and during each employee’s vacation
Work through the project/task lists for each person to identify those projects and tasks that need to be finished before departure, which can be sustained or finished by other when the employee is out, and what can be suspended while he or she is away. Agree ahead of time about what requires attention, and what can be deferred.
Have the employee document the results of this discussion, and detail where files and other resources are that may need to be used by those covering for her or him. This does not have to be fancy: An excel spreadsheet listing the tasks, who covers them and what should occur during the vacation.
Nail down a coverage schedule
Have each team member take the responsibility to lock in their “coverage” while they are out.
- Who will be their back-up for overseeing tasks that cannot wait for the employee’s return?
- Clearly identify the back-ups who can step in to cover for the vacationing employee.
- Have a three-way meeting with the vacationing employee and the covering employee before the vacation to agree on what needs to happen while the employee is away.
- Add these agreements the Projects/Tasks documents the employee should create.
Balance the workload
You cannot load all the coverage assignments onto the usual suspects who always volunteer (and overload themselves) or who get volunteered (because they are so reliable). You, as the leader, must take the time to assess the full workload and assign the extra work evenly across your staff. You do not want the people covering for vacationers to suffer their own “coverage burn-out!” That hit to team productivity is not in your best interest.
Those remaining at work covering for vacationers still have their own assignments to complete:
- Monitor progress closely, and shift tasks around as you see bottlenecks developing.
- Cast no aspersions or blame for these choke points. This is a team effort, and everyone needs to pitch in!
Hire pinch-hitters from outside
Bring back the resource once known as the “summer intern.” This takes a lot of pre-planning, but having a few interns filling gaps by covering simpler tasks helps the whole staff remain more productive, and less stressed!
You may also fill the gap with formal temporary workers, if your task lists can accommodate such outside assistance.
In either case, the extra staffing expense may well be balanced by maintaining a higher level of productivity and permanent staff engagement.
Each employee needs and deserves time off as a way to reset their commitment and engagement in your team’s goals, and physically and emotionally recharge themselves. They have earned the time off through their hard work, and you need to make sure the workplace supports their absence by easing their minds that “stuff will get done, and well done” while they are out.
Their reward is also an easier entry back into work, as they won’t turn up that Monday to face a series of immediate crises.
So, get started this Monday! Get everyone involved, and get them collaborating on their mutual vacation enablement planning project.