Show me an employee with a perfect attendance record, and I'll show you one who's behaving irresponsibly and counter-productively. We all can get caught up in work, but more and more companies are realizing that vacation days aren't just a benefit of employment, they're actually extremely beneficial for both parties. So much so, in fact, that many organizations are making paid time off mandatory.
Hard-working employees sometimes shudder at the thought of taking extended time off because they fear they'll be greeted with inbox hell when they return. Better to keep chugging along on current projects than suffer from post-island depression, the thinking goes. If your employees eschew PTO or worse, come in when they're sick on a regular basis, then the problem isn't necessarily that they're workaholics - it could be that your process for covering for their absence is lacking or non-existent.
If your organization survives on the personal relationships you build with your customers, you know that client management is a huge undertaking. Customer service is the single biggest factor in earning repeat business, so when one of your team members fosters a successful relationship with a client you want to do everything in your organizational power to scale the nature of that connection.
So, your best account manager is on a first-name basis with a key account. The rep and their customer contacts are engaged with each other on a regular basis, and things are poised to ramp up over the summer. There's just one problem: your rep has a timeshare in the Bahamas and they're not about to let it go to waste this year. We talk all about the importance of one-to-one relationships in business, but those can create silos of information that aren't exposed until an employee steps away.
Having the proper systems and technology in place is the only way to scale your relationships so transitions are seamless for all parties. Some companies accomplish this through scheduling, making sure that there's not too much overlap of key employees being out of office at the same time. Just because you encourage your team to take breaks doesn't mean they should all take one together.
Your employees deserve to actually enjoy their vacation, don't forget. That means limiting the number of work-related emails and impromptu fires they're expected to put out remotely. And part of the onus falls on the individual to set themselves up for that stress-free beach life. Communication is key here - not only should your employees give several months notice if they're taking extended time off, but they should compile a list of their key tasks so that a temporary replacement (or a few) can be trained to pick up the slack.
And this process shouldn't happen on sticky notes left at their desk, either. It should be part of a process that each employee knows about, is trained on and can execute with precision. Technology has made it easier to track the effect of an employee's being away from the office, with tools that help the entire office manage vacation schedules and fill the gaps.
Get your data into CRM.
Data, as always, is your friend. The same data that helps you manage your relationships with your customers will tell the "next person up" exactly what they need to know to keep the engagement going. Plus, a system where team members are expected to step up and tackle other jobs fosters trust among your team and be great for building company culture. Everyone should know that when it's their turn to step away, they'll be paid back in a similar fashion.
Of course, sometimes employees take a more permanent vacation, one that they and the rest of your team may not see coming. An individual who quits or is let go, no matter how valuable, doesn't mean relationships must be severed and your company enters scramble mode. The same processes that got you through that two weeks in July will get you through the indefinite period that includes hiring and on-boarding a replacement.
As a leader, it's imperative that you don't catch your team unawares whenever there's a shakeup. The last thing you want to build is resentment in your ranks as your employees wonder exactly what they're supposed to do, or watch as relationships break apart because they existed within a narrowly-defined silo. You also don't want to overburden your employees and make them feel like they're working two jobs at once. Rely on the data to see how to best spread out the tasks.
Vacations are a fact of life within an organization, and one that should be celebrated and encouraged. With the right amount of planning and a systematic approach, your team won't miss a beat just because someone is partaking in a bit of R&R.