Summer vacation planning with your employees

Deux employées discutent ensemble

Fresh air, sunshine, lazy days by the water... That can only mean you’re dreaming about summer vacation. And you can bet your bottom dollar that your employees are thinking about exactly the same thing. Of course, everybody wants to completely disconnect without having to deal with a mountain of work when they get back. But you’ve got to admit this goal becomes harder to reach when everything is left til the last minute.

What do you think about supporting members of your team to help them get through that final push before the holiday? We’ve put some tips together to make it easy for employees to plan their leave and help them make the most of their time off.

Vacations recharge your batteries

Many studies have shown that vacations give us a mental and physical boost. A well-organized holiday helps reduce the stress, anxiety and exhaustion that can lead to burnout and absenteeism. Incredible!

Yet, an Expedia survey revealed that 45% of Canadians didn’t use all their vacation days in 2022 (This hyperlink will open in a new tab). You might assume that a team with more banked days has higher productivity... that would be wishful thinking. Time spent away from work is restorative. It clears the mind and is a tried-and-true stress reliever. In other words, most people become more productive after taking time off.

A link also exists between taking a vacation and job satisfaction. People on the job who use up most (or all) of their banked vacation days are more likely to appreciate the work they do – another good reason to encourage members of your team to schedule time off and benefit from a break.

Consider those peak periods

Your company might not be able to effectively handle a busy period with a reduced workforce. If that fits you to a T, you can avoid impacting your business or the quality of your services by making plans in advance:

  • Give your team (and any new hires) a heads-up that they should not book vacation days during specific rush periods.
  • Or, better yet, announce the maximum number of employees that can be off at the same time.

Helping your employees during the vacation countdown

Solid planning ensures that one person’s absence doesn’t lead to problems for others.  Holidays will go off without a hitch if there are a few preventive measures in place.

Group calendar

Create a shared calendar at least three months in advance. Ask each team member to note their preferred holiday dates to make sure things run smoothly while summer vacay is in full swing. Follow this example. Two technicians with similar jobs should stagger their time off so they won’t be away from work at the same time.

Stick to a clear, recognized policy that reflects your values before setting the vacation schedule in stone. Do you go by seniority, based on personal preferences or do you use another method? The best approach is a flexible one that allows the most people possible to take their preferred holiday dates.

And while we’re at it, do you have any students or interns on the job? Also take their need for a break into account.

Planning meetings to get ready

  • Survey your staff (if this applies to your company): what projects are currently on their plates, including priority levels and due dates? What tasks can be put off until they return from vacation?
  • Talk to them about options for their replacement and best practices for knowledge transfer. Who will be delegated any priority tasks?
  • Invite members of your team to figure out (during a meeting or via a master list) who will be taking over their projects. That will help to lighten their load before heading off on holiday!
  • Check with departing employees to make sure they have left important information and useful contact details accessible while they’re gone.
  • If it makes things easier, create and keep readily available a spreadsheet listing all projects, deadlines, project leads and other details. Good to know there are tools to assist you, like Trello (This hyperlink will open in a new tab), Asana (This hyperlink will open in a new tab), Excel, etc.

  • Check with people tapped to replace colleagues who are off to confirm that tasks are moving forward and the workload is reasonable.

A dose of versatility

Replacing those who go on vacation gets a lot easier when your employees develop a degree of versatility.

Sharing know-how and training expands the range of skills within the team. Well-designed and up-to-date procedures will also make it easier for your company to steam ahead while people are off. Plan ahead!

Checklist before leaving on vacation

There will be loose ends to tie up between now and V-day. This calls for a checklist. What a great way to ensure your team finishes off what they need to before logging out.This list could serve to remind your employees...

  • to share their vacation dates with colleagues and collaborators
  • to leave their peers anything relevant that might come in handy when they’re out of the office: key to that filing cabinet, supplier’s contact details, etc.
  • to program (and enable!) the out-of-office reply for their inbox and voicemail

This message should include exact vacation dates and a resource person to contact for emergencies.

Un couple est assis sur le bord d'une piscine

Tips anyone can use to disconnect

It’s all well and good to get organized before leaving work but you also need to figure out how to let go and switch up the pace while on holiday.

Create a win-win situation for your team by adopting these best practices before someone logs out for several days:

  • Take off early on the last day before vacation – plan and execute a stress-free exit. Instead of working on a project until the very last minute (worrying there’s not enough time left to finish), wrap things up by organizing your inbox, for example, and leave feeling that something’s been accomplished.
  • Plan your return to the office (like a meeting to get you back up to speed, a ready and waiting to-do list…) – and make sure not to pile on too much at once! Your goal is a smooth landing back at work.
  • Disconnect and encourage everyone else to do the same – this involves disabling phone notifications, especially any work-related apps. Dealing with work-related messages will only serve to slowly burst your vacation bubble.
  • Take the time to wish everyone a great vacation, share in their holiday excitement.
  • Make every moment count, up to the last minute – in other words, do not, we repeat, do not start anything new until you get back . Everybody deserves to enjoy a real vacation!

Downtime: not just for others…

You’ve checked in with your troops and put together a game plan covering who does what when people are away? Well played. And since you took the time to listen to members of your team, they’ll be more inclined to collaborate and keep the ball rolling on cue.

Now it’s your turn to focus on your own holiday plans. Lead by example with your employees. If you can take advantage of these moments to unwind, you’ll be living proof that time off is a must-have for both health and productivity.