Out of Office: Planning for Summer Vacations in the WorkplaceAdmin
Rarely is summer fever more prevalent in the U.S. than around the Fourth of July. In nearly every industry, employees are planning their summer getaways and family vacations. Even if a full blown summer vacation is not in the cards for everyone, most people will take a long weekend at least once throughout the summer, opting to take off on Friday, or extend their trip to include Monday. According to Statista, the July 4th weekend was the most popular weekend to take a trip in 2016. With schools and colleges taking a break from regular sessions, and the warm weather beckoning, some type of summer vacation is usually a given for most of us. A survey by AAA revealed that 80% of Americans are planning a road trip this summer. Many employees will get the urge to work outside or even poolside when the weather is warm, and requests to use PTO may start to affect business operations. When so much of your office staff wants to enjoy the summer sun and fun, it’s necessary to have policies and plans in place to make sure that productivity and customer service are not affected by so much out of office time. Here are 5 steps you can take to ensure that your office will still run smoothly during vacation season.
Have Your Vacation Policy in Writing
Having a detailed vacation or paid time off policy in writing is the most fundamental way to ensure that everyone knows what is expected and what time they are entitled to per the policy. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, vacation policies should include the following key items:
- The amount of vacation time (paid or unpaid) employees receive
- Explain how fast it accrues. Is it available immediately upon hire?
- Can employees use vacation before it has been accrued?
- Outline what type of notice is required prior to taking vacation time
It is important to know if your state has a policy regarding paid vacation. Some states regard paid vacation time as an extension of compensation, in which case you may need to pay employees for unused vacation time if they leave the company. This may also determine policies about whether employees are allowed to bank any unused time, or if there is a “use or lose it” type of policy. Either way, it should be clearly defined to avoid conflicts.
Offer a Seasonal Remote Work Option
There are definitely differing schools of thought when it comes to working from home. Some industries, information technology for example, have an infrastructure that lends itself well to a remote work environment. Other industries, like retail and healthcare, may have a more difficult time establishing a system that is truly effective and beneficial for the company. While it’s not feasible for every business, there are some pivotal benefits for employers if your company can offer the opportunity to work from home. A study by Stanford economics professor Nick Bloom on home workers revealed that they were more productive, answered more calls and worked more hours. Those employees who worked at home also took shorter breaks, used fewer sick leaves and reported greater job satisfaction than those who worked in the office full-time. In addition, fewer of those employees who were able to work from home quit. As we discussed in a previous blog, keeping your top performing employees and attracting more is one of the primary concerns of employers in 2017. A major contributor to job satisfaction and employee retention is a flexible work environment. Not all individuals are a good fit for the work-from-home model. According to Monster.com, there are some employees that will have difficulty working with all the comforts of home nearby, and others that are far more distracted at work by phone calls and interruptions from co-workers. For this reason, rather than insisting on a remote work environment, employers should opt for a flexible work environment that allows employees to choose the option that works best for them. As long as the company benefits first and foremost with the establishment of remote work, and the policy can be applied fairly to all employees, working from home is another way employers can allow their employees a little more opportunity to enjoy the warm weather and longer daylight hours that come with summer.
Another way that companies are recognizing the need for workers to have more flexibility and work-life balance is by shortening the business day on Fridays in the summer months. For some organizations, this may be something that happens just before holiday weekends. Others may choose to do so from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Virginia-based research firm CEB says 42 percent of organizations it surveyed will offer their employees “Summer Fridays” this year. This is double the number from a similar survey completed in 2015. If closing early on Friday isn’t an option for your business, you may consider offering a rotating early exit for employees so that your business is still operating, but employees have the opportunity to take advantage of an earlier start to the weekend at least once or twice a month. While staffing for vacations will be inevitable, giving employees a little more leisure time will contribute to an overall feeling of more flexibility and employee satisfaction. The perceived value of a program like this can be exponential to your employees, and further fosters job satisfaction and employee retention.
Relax the Dress Code a Bit
The dress code for an organization is largely dependent upon the industry and the type of interaction that your employees will have with clients and customers. The appearance of your company’s representatives can affect how your customers view your organization. This is why most employers have some sort of dress code in effect in the first place. When the heat of summer is especially oppressive, your employees may appreciate not putting on ties, or stockings. If you choose to allow employees a little more flexibility in the warmer weather, the Society for Human Resource Management recommends attaching an addendum to your current dress code policy with the following examples of appropriate and inappropriate dress:
Appropriate summer dress
T-shirts (solid colors only)
Denim jeans and shirts, dresses or skirts
Inappropriate summer dress
Shorts, other than walking shorts
Logo clothing (sport teams, cartoon characters, etc.
Thong-type sandals or floppy sandals
Halter tops or tank tops
Your seasonal dress code policy addition should denote the dates when summer dress is applicable (May through October for example), and should stipulate that managers and supervisors may determine if an employee is dressed inappropriately. Leaving work attire choices to the interpretation of the individual is delicate, so it’s best to have your policy in writing, in as much detail as possible in order to avoid awkward HR conversations.
Consider Temporary Employees
Seasonal employment is utilized often in retail in an effort to serve more customers, increase sales and provide a better customer experience. A similar philosophy can be employed in other industries during times when greater numbers of employees may be out of the office. Many companies are plagued by understaffing, which can only be exasperated during times when vacations and out of office time are more prevalent. The combination of understaffed companies and overworked employees leads to employee burnout, and eventually, more people choosing to leave their positions. The addition of temporary employees can help to enhance productivity and minimize turnover. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, this arrangement can also be used as a means to create a talent pipeline for your organization. Due to a record low unemployment rate, (4.3% in May of this year) and a shortage of skilled workers in many fields, employers must build a database of qualified, relevant candidates in anticipation of future hiring needs. A temporary employee who has already received training on your software and operational procedures, and is a good culture fit can make a great permanent hire. According to the American Staffing Association, one-third (35%) of temporary employees were offered a permanent job following a temporary assignment, and two-thirds (66%) of those accepted the offers of permanent employment.
According to The State of the American Vacation, Americans left more than 662 million vacation days unused in 2016 alone. Employers are under no obligation to provide paid vacation time, but it is one of the most important things individuals consider when choosing an employer. According to a 2017 employee benefits survey conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management, 96% of organizations provided paid leave for the purpose of vacation. Employers must offer some type of vacation or paid time off in order to remain competitive in such a challenging talent marketplace. However, this should not affect productivity or customer service at your organization. Adhering to an office vacation policy and having an HR department that owns it are fundamental to the function of your business during the height of vacation season.
Bradley Staffing Group is a full-service staffing firm based in Wayne, PA. We are committed to matching A-level talent with best-in-class businesses. Our knowledgeable and well-trained staff brings a combined 70+ years of staffing experience to our clients and candidates alike. http://bradleystaffinggroup.com/employers/