Your summer season can easily be disrupted by employees taking off for vacation, particularly if the team members in question are responsible for handling key client accounts. To ensure business runs smoothly and no customers are left wondering where their deliverables are, consider how you can put forth processes in place so that there aren't any gaps in progress during vacation time.
Eight entrepreneurs share their best practices for ensuring workflow continuity as employees leave for vacation.
1. Create a master checklist.
Checklists are extremely helpful in making sure things get done properly. While it might vary per role, you should have a master checklist available in Google Docs that itemizes the tasks necessary to prepare for an employee's vacation.
You should include things like making key documents or customer information accessible, and a calendar of tasks and responsibilities for their backup.
2. Assign their inbox to another employee.
Most companies rely on autoresponders while people are away, but if a team member does a lot of external communication, you can serve your clients better by having someone else man their inbox for a week.
As a client, it's frustrating to hit the dead end of a vacation autoresponder. Instead, ensure that they get the timely service that they're used to.
3. Limit co-worker dependencies.
To avoid this problem altogether, managers can structure work in such a way that individual contributors can produce assets that do not need materials or input from other team members.
So, whenever someone is away on vacation, work is never disrupted as your employees won't have to scramble to cover for their co-workers on leave.
4. Embed it in the culture early on.
Our company has a strong belief that people should take time off to pursue other "life" things, whatever that means for the particular employee.
The idea is spoken of early and often, and everyone understands working as a team to cover for others creates consistency in the organization when someone is gone. People enjoy the team attitude and mutual reciprocation this provides.
5. Set monthly deadlines.
Make sure team members know what is expected of them on a monthly basis. Encourage strong communication between team members so that if one is covering for another one, they know what needs to be done.
Having well-documented processes is a good additional step to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
6. Create process docs.
A big way that my team has been able to ensure continuity is to create process docs, which lists out how to do a specific task in a step-by-step way.
With the creation of process docs that are available across the organization, this ensures that there is always more than one person who knows what to do if someone goes on vacation, gets sick, leaves abruptly, etc.
7. Use a shared calendar or project management software.
Officially assign the task by creating temporary project calendars and groups that designate how the extra work will be shared and until when.
Showing who does what and providing the timeframe to do it in makes the team aware of their tasks, and gives them all the information they need to get it done.
8. Cross-train your team.
Encouraging your employees to take vacations is an important piece of keeping their work-life balance in check, and can ward off burnout.
Cross-training other employees to make sure they can tackle the tasks of their counterparts not only provides a safety net in case of a prolonged absence, but also provides your team with a more diverse skill set that can position them for future success.