Unlike their American counterparts, most European employees use all their minimum vacation time of four weeks. The good news for managers is that their team returns rejuvenated and risk of burnout is severely reduced. The not-so-good news is that they zero-in-on effective vacation planning strategies and digital vacation planner.
You’re probably aware of why that is: Although legally, the employee has to request vacation time-off and you need to grant it, in practice, you have the final word on when an employee can take vacation days. You’ll of course want to grant their request (and for specific reasons discussed further) but you’re also responsible for ensuring that operational requirements are unaffected by the absence of one or more employees.
Your decision on granting leave or requesting the employee to defer their vacation is binding. If you’re in a position where you don’t have the data on current and pending leave requests or a window into previous leave history, you may struggle to take the best possible decision, given the circumstances. It could lead to operational bottlenecks or erode employees’ confidence in or goodwill towards you.
Discuss vacation policy during the orientation process
Set expectations around employee vacations at the time of hiring and orientation. Specify the peak work periods during which vacations will be hard to grant. Encourage new hires to share their intention to take time-off on account of particular religious holidays or personal/familial commitments.
Encourage new hires to plan their vacation well in advance
In the manufacturing sector, employees are requested to plan their vacation for the coming year. Leave schedules in the healthcare domain are planned three to five months prior to going on vacation. You don’t need to ask employees to plan their vacation so ahead of time, but even an intimation 4-5 weeks in advance of their vacation can help you reorganise and adjust operations more flexibly.
Stagger vacation scheduling
Staggering the vacation schedule ensures that someone or the other is always available to get work done and deliver your service promise. You can have one employee begin his vacation at the end of the week – on a Thursday or Friday – and be available on the preceding days, while another employee returns from her holidays mid-week and is around when her colleague isn’t. During peak periods, planning day and afternoon shifts for vacationing employees can make a big difference.
Empower employees to adjust vacation dates among themselves
As employees discuss their vacation plans amongst each other, why not allow them to discuss vacation dates and ensure that coverage is maintained on all working days and quality of work is not jeopardised? Employees can talk it over, reach a compromise, and come up with a better vacation schedule than what you had in mind. Even if they are unable to reach an agreement, they can ensure that one of them doesn’t have to be burdened with the work of two as a result of identical vacation dates.
If you’re managing a small team, early conversations around vacation time-off is easier and highly recommended. You can emphasise a first come, first served policy of granting leaves or let your team know beforehand that there will be a cap on the number of employees who can take leave during holiday season.
While setting expectations and communicating policies should be your go-to strategy, the vacation planning process and official records of leaves taken are greatly simplified by an appropriate vacation planner tool.
kiwiHR’s time-off management tool streamlines the process of approving/rejecting leaves and facilitates smart, fair decision-making.
Your employees can access their personal files on any device to make time-off requests.
As the vacation planner tool stores employees’ leave history, there is no need to maintain paper records. Digital personnel files can be easily accessed, updated and archived as needed. Paperless human resource management also boosts your green credentials.
Employees don’t have to draft an email every time they want to send a leave request. You don’t have to filter emails in your inbox to review an employee’s leave history either.
Numerous studies have suggested the physical and psychological benefits of paid time-off. Employees need to unplug from work and employers must support this need in a positive and sensitive manner. As a manager, you play a vital role in employee vacation planning and absence management. You will definitely want to approve all reasonable requests for paid vacations not just for the sake of company policy and labor laws, but also for employees’ overall well-being.
Well-rested employees who enjoy a change of scene away from work from time to time are happier, more productive, more focused and less stressed. By establishing your organisation as one that cares for work-life balance, you can attract as well as retain talent more effectively.
With digitalisation helping you manage the vacation planning process efficiently, you don’t have to upend your leave policy or enforce a strict vacation schedule. Invest in timely conversations, empower employees to take vacation time-off, and leverage a smart vacation planner tool to ensure that you don’t have to face holiday season crunches.
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