Managing summer schedules at a small business can get complex and confusing. You may have full-time employees taking vacations. You could have part-time employees at your store or restaurant making last-minute requests for time off. Then there's the possible downturn in productivity that can result from heat or gorgeous weather. The following tips may help you get a grip on the challenges of managing your employee's summer schedules.
Remind everyone about your vacation policy.
You may want to start by refreshing everyone's memory about your vacation and paid time off (PTO) policies. (Including these policies in your employee handbook may be helpful.)
If you don't do this already, consider having a policy for when employees must submit vacation or PTO requests. Consider requiring vacation requests to be made far in advance. This may help you project how many employees will be on vacation at any given time. It may also give you insight on how this might affect your business operations. If you know there are certain times during the summer that are so busy you can't let anyone go on vacation, you may want to make sure your employees know about them in advance.
Know how you'll handle scheduling conflicts and holidays.
Sometimes employees' vacation requests will conflict. Having a plan for how you will handle this stated in your employee handbook may help navigate those issues. For example, will you decide who gets the time off based on seniority, on who submitted their request earliest or will you let the employees work it out among themselves?
There are also certain times of summer when lots of people will want time off, like the days surrounding the Fourth of July or Labor Day. Consider offering incentives such as bonus pay or comp time (to be taken in the fall) for employees who work during these popular vacation days.
Consider accounting for slow periods when creating summer schedules.
Of course, if your employees want time off around holidays, your customers may be taking that time off, too. You may be able to ease some of your scheduling worries by working around your customers' habits.
If several of your biggest clients take summer Fridays off, consider letting your employees do the same. If your business typically slows down in August, you may want to encourage employees to take their vacations then. That said, you may not want to be left with a bare-bones staff—you could be in trouble if one employee calls in sick.
Have a workweek policy that lessens the likelihood of beach weather sickness.
Even when vacation scheduling is handled, employees may want to call in “sick” at the last minute when beach weather beckons. This may wreak havoc on your carefully planned schedule.
One way to decrease this type of behavior is by offering a summer schedule that provides shorter and/or more flexible hours. When employees know they'll get some built-in time off, they may be less likely to bail on your business. They may also be more motivated and productive during the summer.
Here are some popular summer schedule options that might work for your business:
Give employees every or every other Friday afternoon off. Depending on how generous you're feeling (and how hard your employees work the rest of the year), you may want to provide this time off with full pay. For instance, if your salaried employees regularly work 60-hour weeks during your busy season, this type of summer time off may be a nice reward.
If you can't afford to do that, you may want to use a compressed workweek to provide Fridays or every other Friday off. One of the most common types of compressed workweeks is a 4/10 schedule. A 4/10 schedule has employees work four 10-hour days each week and then have Fridays off. There is also a 9/80 schedule, in which employees work 80 hours over nine days in a two-week period, and then get alternate Fridays off.
Be flexible with time off and flextime. Consider letting employees choose their own half-day or day off, as long as they make up the hours at other times during the week. Or, you can simply offer flextime as long as employees are in the office during certain core hours.
Flextime may work well for working parents whose children are out of school during the summer. Even many day care and day camp programs end at 3 p.m., which may leave parents in the lurch.
Let people work remotely. Allowing for remote work arrangements may also help with summer schedules. For example, as an alternative to summer Fridays off, you could let employees work from home on Fridays or at other times of their choosing.
Accountability can be helpful in making these arrangements work. You may want to convey to employees that the summer schedule is a privilege that must be earned. Consider communicating your expectations clearly, and checking in regularly to make sure work is getting completed on time and up to your standards.
Summer Schedules Ideas for Hourly Employees
What if you have hourly employees or workers whose shifts change from week to week? Using employee scheduling and time-tracking software is one way to simplify summer schedules.
Consider looking for a tool that fits your employees' needs and how they like to communicate. If most of your workers are teens or young adults, scheduling software with good mobile capabilities can be helpful. You may also want a product that:
- enables employees to trade shifts among themselves,
- notifies you and your managers of scheduling changes by text and email and
- alerts you when employees are getting close to going into overtime.
You may be able to make things even easier by looking for time-tracking software that integrates with your payroll software to make sure everyone gets paid accurately. WhenIWork, NimbleSchedule and TSheets are three popular plans well-suited for small businesses. (Disclosure: TSheets is a client of my company.)
Another option? Working with a temporary staffing agency for last-minute summer scheduling changes. Consider working with a temp agency and, if possible, temps you've worked with before so you don't have to spend a lot of time getting them up to speed.
For more tips to help you achieve a better work-life balance, watch the exclusive video series, made in partnership with MSNBC: Work-Life Balance: Tips from the Trenches.
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