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Vacation Season is Here. Is Your Small Business Prepared to Handle It?

Summer is here - finally! With this highly anticipated season comes longer days, warm weather, sunshine, backyard BBQs, summer fun, and vacations! According to an April 2023 article in Travel Pulse, 63 percent of U.S. adults say they are likely to take a summer vacation this year, up slightly from 61 percent last year. To put that in perspective, for a small business with only 10 employees that means that as many as 6 of those employees may take a vacation in a 3-month time period.

Taking time off is essential for employees, and creating a company culture where time off is encouraged is equally important for employers. As a matter of fact, 68% of employees report being happier at work because their employers encourage vacations and more than two-thirds of workers whose companies encourage taking days off feel more productive and engaged at work (SHRM). However, for a small business, “vacation season” can be tricky when trying to manage the increase in PTO requests and the burden placed on employees covering for their colleagues while they are out of the office. What can your small business do to strike a good balance between the two?

  • Ensure you have a PTO policy in place. The policy should include:

    • Information on how much PTO is given to the employees and how it is accrued

    • How far in advance employees must put in their PTO requests, i.e for employees requesting 3 or more days of PTO, you must submit your PTO request two weeks in advance

    • To whom and how employees should request PTO

    • How the company handles multiple requests for PTO at the same time, i.e. first come, first serve, seniority, reason-based, or prior request history

    • Any changes or deviations from the standard PTO policy during peak business times OR any “black out” dates when PTO is limited or not available

  • Communicate the policy

    • A comprehensive PTO policy should be included in an employee handbook. If a company does not have a handbook, create and disseminate a written document that explains the PTO policy

    • Review the PTO policy with all new employees as part of the onboarding process

    • Periodically send out written communication of the PTO policy

  • Determine how your company will handle vacation coverage. Ideas to consider:

    • Assign a colleague/manager to cover for an employee while they are away

    • Perform cross-training on all employees’ roles and responsibilities so coverage for an out-of-office employee can be spread amongst multiple employees

    • Request all employees include an Out of Office notification or vacation responder on their email that includes the name and contact information of the person covering for them while they are away

    • Request employees meet with their manager prior to taking more than 2 PTO days to review current projects or tasks they are working on to prepare for any questions or concerns that may arise

Having both a PTO policy in place and feasible ways to manage vacation coverage is a win-win for employees and employers. It will also be a great way in creating a company culture that truly encourages employees to use PTO.

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