Designing leave management policies that work for both the company and the individual is no easy task. In a way, it would seem that the entire concept of “paid time off” runs counter to what is in the best interest of a company. The company is essentially paying the employee not to work. In a time when more and more companies face the stress of trying to do more with less, and increase productivity among employees, it would seem natural that eliminating time off policies would be a good place to start. These companies will be in for a surprise, however, when they find their best employees fleeing to the competition. How, then, can companies continue to grant paid time off with minimal impact on productivity? By designing and implementing smart leave management policies that take both the company’s and employee’s needs into consideration.
Be Smart About Vacation Allocation
Many companies start with the premise that they can have x number of people on vacation each week. They create a spreadsheet that they pass around from employee to employee; and these employees sign up for their vacation requests. Everything’s good, right? Wrong. Most companies do not have such static levels of demand that it makes sense to grant the same amount of leave each week. Some weeks are going to be busy; other weeks are going to be slow. You can usually use historical records to determine which weeks are going to fall into which categories. For example, in New England, there are going to be more power outages between November-March than between March-June, because snow falls on trees, trees fall on power lines, and power goes out. Therefore, if you are managing a power company in New England, you probably shouldn’t allot the same number of vacation slots during the winter months as you do during Fall and Spring. The same principles apply across many sectors.
Make it Easy for Employees to Take Time Off
Employees are people, and people have last-minute changes to their lives. And while in the ideal situation, managers can have weeks or months of notice before an employee takes a day off, there are certain circumstances that are beyond everyone’s control. When these sorts of events occur, it should be easy for an employee to take paid time off. For example, maybe the employee can borrow hours from a fellow (and willing) employee. Maybe the employee can shorten an upcoming vacation from 5 days to 3 days. This isn’t to suggest that there should be a free-for-all as far as whether or not employees show up for work. But when last-minute circumstances dictate, a little bit of flexibility shown by the employer will go a long way toward cementing employee loyalty. And a hard-working, loyal employee is an excellent step in the right direction toward increased productivity.
Employees want to know what is going on as much as employers do. When you are open and transparent about how vacation time is allotted and granted, employees are far more likely to try to be part of the solution. They understand the ebb and flow of your business – they can tell you almost as well as you can tell them when they are going to be busting to get all of the work done, and when there’s going to be extra water-cooler time. By bringing employees into the discussion of how time off is allocated, how it is granted, and what circumstances cause time off to be rejected, employees will better understand management priorities.
The fact is, vacations and paid time off are not productivity killers. Employees need the ability to recharge the batteries and have time away for family, recreation, and just general down time. The real productivity killers are unplanned, unannounced time off – for example, when an employee calls out sick at the last minute to take care of something that would have better have been served by a personal/planned vacation day. Attrition of your best people is also a productivity killer, as there is real cost and time associated with recruiting, hiring, and training replacement employees to fill in for your best people who will leave if they believe that their work-life balance is threatened. By planning ahead and using sound strategies for designing leave management policies, companies can both increase productivity and keep employees happy. A win-win for all.