There comes a time in every company's growth that the owner has to take on that dreaded task -
Creating an employee handbook.
While there are plenty of templates that serve as a starting point for this endeavor, customizing policies to fit your company's unique needs is much harder than you might expect. How to handle expenses, reimburse for mileage, cover jury duty and allow for maternity leave are just a few thorny issues that you have to consider.
One of the hardest policies to define is how vacation and time away from the office will be managed and enforced. There are several philosophies to how this can work, from specific vacation days to the more vague personal time off. No matter how much you think through it, from my experience, employees will present you with unexpected scenarios.
While attending Write2Market's Industry Leadership Summit a couple of weeks ago, I listened to fellow entrepreneur David Cummings' keynote. Cummings is a serial entrepreneur who recently sold Pardot to Exact Target for $100 million. His keynote focused on the lessons he had learned while creating a successful entrepreneurial venture. He may very well have stumbled upon the best way to address this topic: create no policy whatsoever.
One of the points he made specifically applied to the concept of coming up with his own company's vacation policy. He made it simple and told his employees to "be reasonable."
This concept works exceptionally well for the two common types of employees:
1. The Employee Who Never Takes Time Away
Some employees will wear the fact that they are never away from the office as a badge of honor. But that's not reasonable. Vacation and time away is an important benefit and impacts everyone's effectiveness at their job.
Some of the greatest epiphanies come during down time. I have read some of the most important books during my vacations that changed the philosophy to how I approached my work and even my company's structure.
2. The Employee Who Takes Too Much Time Away
Taking weeks and weeks of vacation or being continuously absent for personal reasons is what most employers worry about and is often the main focus of a vacation policy. But if you tell your employees to be reasonable, they are likely to make good decisions about their time away from the office. After all, if you can be away from the office for that amount of time--is what you do really a job that you should be paid a regular salary for? Is that reasonable?
As you think through creating your policies for your company--especially the all important vacation policy--consider using the simple approach of asking your employees to just be reasonable.