It's that time of year again where the office looks vaguely post-apocalyptic. Desks lie empty, voicemail lights emit their tired red flashes and incomplete to-do lists flap redundantly in the breeze. Still, even in its vacation-depleted state, business goes on. And with a bit of planning, it's possible to keep clients sweet, avoid nasty conflicts and get that proposal approved without having to trouble Brian at the beach.
Visibility is key
The secret is to have visibility over intended holiday absences. Dates in an email, or jotted down on a piece of paper, just don’t cut it. If you can’t see the potential clash, then chances are you’re going to miss it. You need to be able to see holiday absences in the context of the rest of your team, department or business.
One option is to use a huge wall planner. You’ve probably seen one used in just this way, liberally sprinkled with coloured dots, each representing a different member of staff. The days that look most like the aftermath of a paintball assassination attempt signify potential availability clashes – and at that visual level (ie, being able to glance up to see who’s in or out of the office), a wall planner works pretty well.
Unfortunately it doesn’t address or help with the management of holiday absences. Requests for leave are still applied for in the same way – via email (or by catching your manager on her way out the door), and the burden nearly always rests with one person to check for clashes, review upcoming workloads and approve or reject the application.
Removing the bottleneck
The secret to managing holiday absences is to encourage self-service. Give employees the opportunity to:
• check their remaining holiday entitlement themselves
• see when other staff are intending to take leave, and
• apply for leave quickly and easily
and much of the unnecessary burden surrounding holiday approval is eliminated.
Paper forms become a thing of the past, staff don’t have to clog up managers’ inboxes to find out how many days they’ve got left and, by seeing potential clashes themselves, team members can plan around each others’ absences. Managers too, can see at a glance where scheduling conflicts are likely to arise and plan around these.
For self-service to work properly, you need an online system – a central record that’s always up-to-date and accessible by everybody, wherever they are.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. At the heart of any good holiday management system is a simple interface that combines clear visual cues on the status of holiday absences with straightforward one- or two-click actions.
That’s not to say all systems are basic. Some will allow you to set limits for the maximum number of staff (by percentage) who can be absent at once, thus making it possible to incorporate aspects of your own holiday policy. Others will allow you to request not just holiday, but all types of leave.
But at the end of the day, ease of use is key.
Now … where’s that beach towel?