More than a third of employees opted out of taking a vacation in 2011, reports CareerBuilder.com. Among those people who did opt for time off, few returned to work completely relaxed. A staggering 85 percent reported that their stress levels were the same — or higher — after their vacations, according to a Fierce Inc. survey.
Although the data could support an argument for suspending vacations altogether, understand this: Stress wreaks havoc on the body and is one of the biggest contributors to many of the diseases that ail us today. Most critical to businesses, however, is the fact that stress destroys a person’s mood, weakens their memory, and decreases their ability to make sound decisions or to manage conflict.
As a small-business owner, can you afford having more than a third of your employees function poorly? Can you afford to burn out?
When you’re operating with a small staff, it’s scary to be without key personnel. It’s even scarier to pull yourself away from work. However, vacations have the power to re-energize you and make you feel like you can take on the world again.
To ensure that you and your staff can enjoy stress-free vacations this summer, take the following steps:
- Establish a formal policy. Explain how people should request time off, how far in advance they need to make their requests, and how you will handle disputes over peak times.
- Set communication boundaries. Anyone who’s on vacation should be able to unplug without having to check-in. However, make sure that you have a protocol for emergencies and that you clearly define what constitutes “an emergency.”
- Ask employees to update their job descriptions. Maintain an accurate list of each person’s responsibilities, which makes it easier to delegate duties in his or her absence.
- Cross-train your staff. When employees can play multiple roles, your team is better prepared for any absence, including when someone quits. Ensure that at least two people can cover any single function.
- Create a calendar that everyone may access. Ask employees to add their approved vacation dates to the calendar and to notify the rest of the staff when they’ll be gone.
- Plan to cover assignments. Everyone should schedule time off so that it accommodates important dates and deadlines. Work together to back up or extend deadlines, as needed, and plan who will cover what for whom.
- Alert outside contacts. At least a week prior, vacationers should notify clients, vendors, and partners that they will be out. In doing so, employees should address any concerns, fulfill orders, provide emergency contact information, and so on.
- Make important information accessible to others. Provide usernames and passwords, contact information, and other relevant data to key team members should someone need it during an employee’s absence.
Remember: It is unfair to make employees feel guilty for taking deserved vacations. Your employees may be worried that you will think less of them if they leave for several days or longer. Prove that you support a healthy work-life balance by enthusiastically granting time off — and taking a vacation yourself.