Creating a staff holiday planner: 5 things to consider

10 July 2013

You can smell the sun cream already – yes, the time of year is fast approaching when staff will be leaving in their droves to enjoy their summer break.

But how do you avoid the added stress for your business caused by a reduced summer staff? How to make sure the phones don’t go unanswered and the rest of your workforce aren’t working so hard to cover the extra jobs they’ll need twice the amount of time off when their turn comes?

Annual leave can be a highly emotive issue for staff, so when creating a staff holiday planner it’s important to have a well-publicised and clear system which is fair to everyone. Creating a staff holiday planner template may also help, Microsoft has a number of free templates you can download.

Most managers give holiday on a first-come, first-served basis, which is easy to understand and fair. Other companies allow staff to work out holiday between themselves, which can be empowering and make for good communication, but is unlikely to work in a large organisation.

Whatever system you have, here are our top five tips to ensuring everything runs smoothly when you’re short-staffed over the summer:

  • Limit holiday numbers
    It’s a nasty shock when you realise on Friday that key tasks will be a struggle next week because too many people will be off at once. To avoid this happening, keep a spreadsheet of staff members and work out how many people you can afford to have off at any one time. When people ask for holiday, keep to strict limits on how many are off at once. Consider who shouldn’t be away in the same week.
  • Effective handovers
    When someone is about to go off on leave, make sure they have enough time to hand over their responsibilities beforehand. Try to avoid one person being left with a bundle of extra work and share it out to several people.
  • Staggering holiday years
    This is a useful way of making sure everyone isn’t rushing to take leave at the same time, especially if you have teams who are busy at different times of the year. It works by allocating people’s “holiday years” (ie: when they start and finish) at staggered times. For example: the financial staff holiday year might run from January to December, while in sales leave runs from April to April. This system addresses the common problem of people not taking enough leave and then hurrying to claim the rest of it before it runs out at the end of their holiday year, resulting in too many people off at once.
  • Out of office
    Remind staff that they need to switch on their out of office email when they’re away, directing clients to someone else who can help. This is very important to maintain business flow. Include your reminder in the staff booklet and put it up on notice boards.
  • Invoices
    When allocating annual leave, make sure there’s always someone in the office who can sign off invoices and cheques. You don’t want to lag behind on income or payments over the summer.