8 tips on how to cope when your staff take their annual leave

When it’s prime time and people are ready to take their annual leave, if you have a business with 4-5 staff members, this could massively impact productivity. Successfully managing workloads will require a balancing act where essential work is completed without overtaxing your team. To ensure minimal disruption period during this time, read on to see our helpful tips.

1. Prioritising

Developing a plan of action to adequately prepare and organise your staff becomes even more important now. First, by meeting with the employee who is taking their leave, you can confirm that everything they would normally do is being covered, and if not, this allows you to make a plan together. When tasks are prioritised, you’ll be able to see the work that is the most urgent and then work out the required time to complete these projects (and by who).

2. Allocating assignments

When you have a small staff, allocating assignments requires some forethought and planning. The staff member may find someone to cover almost everything that needs to be done, but there may be a couple of sensitive tasks they aren’t sure how to handle. You can either handle it yourself or allocate this to a staff member if they have the ability and capacity to complete the task. This is why cross-training in a smaller business is so important. You can also choose to distribute the employee’s tasks among the remaining staff members so that the impact on everyone is minimal. By planning ahead, this allows you to obtain employee buy-in and helps ensure that everything still gets completed.

3. Leveraging outside assistance

If you find that you don’t have the resources to fill in the gap, depending on the position and duties, you could outsource the work as a freelance job. This can be done on-site or from a remote location. The work may also be a good fit for a college/university student or recent graduate when offered as a contract position. This will help boost their CV while giving you the hands-on assistance you need. For more senior positions, there are companies that specialise in leave management and have vetted individuals who are both knowledgeable and uniquely skilled in different areas.

4. Transitioning the workload

Ask the employee to write a comprehensive handover document before they leave. By having a detailed, step-by-step list of exactly what needs to be done, and then verbally going over these details with staff members, you can ensure you fully understand the requirements. By also having the employee send you an email with all the handoffs listed and people involved; this will allow you to see where follow up is needed. If you’re bringing in a temporary worker, also allow them to come in beforehand to work side by side with the employee who will be on leave as this makes a smoother transition.

5. Neatly tying up all the loose ends

The more work a staff member can complete before they leave, the less the rest of the team will have to do. The day before leaving, they should send an email with a progress report on certain tasks and then hand any unfinished projects over to colleagues in good time. They should also update their out of office message with details of the appropriate staff member who should be contacted during their absence. By finally double-checking their calendar, this ensures that they have responded to everything that requires their immediate attention.

6. Leveraging Technology

Having the employee create a working document that can be updated in real-time such as a Google Doc, can serve as an ongoing resource to share and store key information; such as relevant contacts, deliverables, milestones, and other instructions. They can also set up calendar notifications and reminders before and after each activity. Staff members or the temporary worker can easily update the Google Doc in preparation for the employee’s return. This helps ensure a smoother re-entry.

7. Allowing for breaks

The stress on understaffed team members during this time increases, which means they are more likely to make errors or mistakes. Taking regular breaks during the workday may sound counterproductive, but this will help everyone remain more alert and effective. Even taking a regular lunch break can help staff members get more work done afterwards.

8. Communicating openly and freely

While you may feel like waving a white flag at a certain point, it’s important to keep spirits up. Find humour wherever you can and encourage employees to speak up when they feel overwhelmed or are having problems. Limiting the work that needs to be done that day, calling in support staff to help out, or even jumping in to assist, goes a long way in building team morale. Also, acknowledging and thanking everyone for pitching in shows you appreciate their effort.

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