Hello, Summer! 6 Tips for Making Employee Scheduling a BREEZE

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Summer is HERE, which means we’re all dreaming of those lazy, hazy days at the beach, right? Whoa, not so fast! Let’s get the employee scheduling “issues” cleared up first.

Here are some tips to make sure everything runs smoothly.
1. Make vacation schedules transparent. Nothing is worse than receiving an email from a co-worker on a summer Friday that says, “I’ll be out next week, FYI” and it’s the first you’ve heard of it. No, you don’t want to deny anyone of their hard-earned vacation time, but you also don’t want to resent the person for leaving you in the lurch, either.

Avoid these sorts of employee-morale-crushing oversights by having one transparent calendar that everyone in the office can access. Put someone in charge of updating all vacations and personal days the moment an employee’s request has been approved. Project management software, like Basecamp, typically includes web-based calendars that have been baked into the product.

2. Email weekly reminders. Of course, having an accessible calendar isn’t enough. Not everyone will remember to check it. So get in the habit of sending an employee-wide email every Monday morning during busy vacation seasons reminding folks about who is off for the week, what vacations are coming up next, and who is covering what. Then there are no excuses, and no surprises.

3. Make the process of requesting time off easy and consistent. If you have an employee handbook, you should include a section that outlines the company’s policy and process for requesting vacation and personal days. For example, what happens if three people request the same week off? If your organization closes down during a certain time (like the week in between Christmas and New Year’s), does this down time count against employees’ vacation days or is this down time in addition to their vacation days? Your policy should clearly address situations like that.

Make it as easy as possible for employees and managers to understand your policies and to request time off. Hint: if you don’t already have employee scheduling software, now might be the time to consider investing in it. Here’s a site that provides side-by-side comparisons of the top 10 products.

4. Encourage out-of-office “standards.” Make sure employees create “away” voice mail messages that state the time frame for the person’s absence. Employees should also turn on vacation messages in their email as well. Both “away messages” should provide the name and extension/email for people to contact while the person is out of the office.

5. Don’t forget to alert customers/clients. Depending on the type of business you have, you may need to let clients and customers know about upcoming vacations and/or summer hours. Do this as a courtesy and to show your organization is on top of things (it’s also a great way to reach out to customers you haven’t heard from in a while). Here are some ideas:

  • Have employees add a line in a bold bright color (like red) to the bottom of their email signatures a couple of weeks before their vacation starts: “I’ll be out of the office starting on July 4 and returning on July 14.”
  • Create a graphic for your home page and contact us page with “Summer Hours.”
  • Send an email to your database with the summer schedule.
  • Announce summer hours on social media.
  • Make sure all the places your hours are listed—online, in print, and in person—are up to date.

6. Encourage collaboration among your employees. Typically, when someone from the office is out for a week, someone needs to cover that person’s work. Define the process so that it becomes second nature for your employees. At the very least, your employees should…

  • Know who will be covering for them.
  • Be encouraged to meet with the person providing coverage at least a week or so before vacation starts to review relevant information, tasks, and so forth.
  • Touch base right away with the person who provided coverage when the vacationing employee returns. This way, the employee who has just returned can be brought up to speed on any issues.

What are your strategies for avoiding scheduling nightmares during busy vacation seasons like summer? Share in the comments.

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