Everyone needs and deserves vacations. For many of us that’s what helps get us through the weeks is dreaming about cold drinks on a hot beach. But for some organizations it can be a hassle and hazardous to project health when planned absences are not managed properly. Here are some tips on healthy vacation request management to help ensure the mental health of your employees while also preserving the overall health of your projects.
Centralized Repository for Requests
Nothing will catch a project off-guard more than a team member saying to you “yeah, I’ll take a look at that when I’m back in two weeks”. I’ve been caught by it, I’m sure you have been too. So how do we ensure that these difficult situations are minimal at best? Set up a centralized repository for all planned absences from the office so that there is visibility across the organization for who is in and out of the office so plans can be adjusted accordingly. A lot of organizations will set up a shared Outlook calendar that everyone has access to and that planned absences are marked in this calendar so that it offers quick visibility to who is unavailable and when. But having a calendar for approved absences isn’t the only thing that should be centralized. Requests should also be logged in central repository so that approving managers also do not lose sight of the incoming requests and can expedite approval (or rejection) so that the submitting team member can receive a timely response (those plane tickets won’t be on sale forever!). Requests that pass a certain threshold can be automated to nag the ones needing to review and approve. Requestors can see in real time the status of their requests. By having one centralized repository for the requests and approved absences you are instantly opening the gates of communication with regards to the entire process.
Set a Cut-Off Date for Requests
By pushing your team members to get vacation requests in early, you’re ensuring that you can respond to these requests favorably without a lot of mad scrambling at the end to ensure proper coverage while people are gone. Some organizations won’t even entertain a vacation request with less than two month’s notice while others may be more lenient, depending on the situation. Christmas time is always a mad scramble and it is good practice to ensure that a proper cut-off is in place for requests coming in for the holiday season, especially if you need to provide customer coverage/support over the holidays, which leads me to my final point.
Establish Tie-Breaker Rules
So you have two people on the same project who can’t both be out of the office at the same time (under normal circumstances) – but both have asked for the Christmas week off. How do you decide who gets to take time off and who needs to come into the office. There are a few schools of thought – some organizations go by seniority, which can be a fairly cut-and-dry way of determining, however not always fair to the more junior members if they are always in competition with senior team members. Other organizations have a “first come, first serve” approach which is a little more wide open but may rub some the wrong way if they are always too late in getting requests put in. There is no silver-bullet solution to tie-breakers but however it’s implemented should be fair, transparent and communicated to all.
Having a solid vacation request management process in place is something that can easily be overlooked and very detrimental to your organization if not handled properly. One constant with all employees is that vacation will be taken by them and they will be away from your projects – you need to ensure that the impact to your work is minimal (like, none) and that your team members can adequately recharge the batteries to come back and be more effective.