Leaving, on a jet plane. Not working till I’m back again.

Beach Vacation

The school vacation is upon us and it would seem that summer is finally here too. While vacations beckon for most of us, for employers and HR teams, this time of year represents a perennial issue of resource, staffing and employee care.

In today’s “always-on” society, taking a vacation – and the periods immediately before and after – can be a stressful experience. Similarly, the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, many of which are connected to work emails, also mean that there is the temptation to ‘check-in’, regardless of geography or time zone.

Recent research from AA Travel Insurance found one in three vacationers admitted to taking work calls and checking emails while out of the country. At the other end of the spectrum however, some companies now make every effort to ensure their staff actually ‘switch off’ when away from the office. Volkswagen and BMW have limits on out of hours emails, while Daimler allows its employees to have all work-related emails automatically deleted while they are on leave.

Making sure employees switch off has also been found to help increase long-term productivity and workplace engagement. So, how can HR teams and business leaders make sure that those staff on vacation are focused on relaxing, while making sure that those left in the office are not over-worked and under resourced? Here are five tips for both sides of the debate:

Help the vacationers

  1. Delete email accounts – Despite the fact work emails on phones are commonplace, the account can be deleted and then reinstated on return to work, removing any temptation for a sneaky look.
  2. Out of office policy – There is nothing worse than coming back to an overflowing inbox of emails that are now irrelevant or out of date. Help avoid this by having a clear and consistent OOO policy that encourages any urgent emails to be re-sent on the return to work date.
  3. Pre-vacation handovers – Have a policy where handovers have to be done 24 hours before departure. This means people have time to ask questions before people leave the workplace.
  4. Don’t pre-load – Similarly, don’t encourage employees to be working until midnight the night before they leave. Accept that some things will need to be picked-up by others in the team.
  5. Inform clients – Let clients know early when an employee will be off and unavailable, giving a day buffer either side to help handover and catch-up.

Support the staff

  1. Resource planning – Where possible, identify gaps early (most people book vacations in advance) and a plan to plug these with either internal or external resource.
  2. Communicate to client – Support your teams by prioritizing workloads. If it can wait until the morning, do let it wait. The most important thing is to communicate well with your clients, and let them know what’s realistic and what’s not, with the time you have.
  3. Look for signs – If the workload is getting too much for some, there will surely be changes in their behavior at work. Look out for these tell-tale signs.
  4. Support their wellbeing – Make sure they have time to clear their heads. Covering for colleagues shouldn’t mean the people left in the office have to work longer hours.
  5. Reward and thank – Anything from a quick word in the corridor, to some early Friday drinks. Make sure their effort is recognized so they feel appreciated.

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