4 tips for establishing start-to-finish vacation coverage

Employees have a love-hate relationship with planning for vacations — excitement when planning for their own trip and discomfort when providing coverage for vacationing team members.

To ease the process and minimize any stress, it’s important to create a start-to-finish vacation transition plan. Here are four tips to ensure managers and employees effectively manage absences to create a smooth transition and post-vacation return.

See also: America's vacation deprivation bad for workers, employers

1. Get organized and plan ahead. Effective vacation planning includes taking inventory of assignments and divvying them up among employees with the flexibility to accommodate the extra work. Encourage team members to create a detailed overview of works in progress in an easily accessible format, such as a Google Doc, that include major responsibilities, projects in progress, key contacts and any necessary access codes that the office might need. In addition, encourage employees to create detailed out-of-office email and voicemail messages including who to contact for different projects during their absence.
2. Allow for transition time after the vacation. Encourage team members to set aside at least four hours to transition back into the workplace. This time can be used for catching up on emails and voicemails, reconnecting with internal colleagues and checking in with external contacts. Devoting time specifically to transitioning back to work will prevent your colleagues from being overwhelmed by a work avalanche when they return.
3. Be patient and prioritize. Team members will likely have a pile of work to tackle, so it’s important to help them prioritize. After they’ve been caught up on project statuses, help them create a list of priorities where project deadlines and importance are factored in. Remind team members that they should focus their time on the must-dos, rather than the laundry list of completed and in-progress items.
4. Ask for help. Sometimes heavy workloads and very specific responsibilities make it challenging for other team members to cover for vacationing employees. Consider tapping external resources, like contractors or temp agencies, to fill the void.

See also: Legal to deny an employee's vacation request?

Establishing a standard routine helps articulate expectations for vacationing employees and alleviates any stress or confusion for the rest of the office. Employees should have peace of mind and enjoy their vacation knowing colleagues have a solid understanding of their coverage support, while employers can rest assured that office productivity isn’t being negatively impacted.

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