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Vacation coverage plan template - tracking ideas for PTO

When the winter or summer holidays arrive, your team members are thinking about one thing only: taking a long, well-deserved break. In fact, you’re probably ready to unplug and unwind from the daily hassle at the office yourself.

But it takes work to get away from work. As a manager, you not only have to make sure your own job is adequately covered before you leave, but you also need to prepare for vacation season by coordinating workflow and accommodating your employees’ days off to avoid disrupting business operations. Follow these tips to ensure adequate coverage and avoid scheduling nightmares when preparing for vacation.

Spring into summer plans

The best time to start preparing for vacation requests is not winter (or summer) but late fall (or spring). Planning ahead of time gives you ample time to consider everyone’s requests and, if necessary, allows employees who’ve requested conflicting weeks to find alternate dates. Another tip: Encourage employees to list second and third choices. Rejecting a vacation request outright because of overlaps is bad for morale.

A good way to take care of scheduling time off is to address it at a team meeting. Have each staff member name their preferred vacation dates, and log them all on a master calendar. If too many people want to take off during a given week, a group give-and-take is much more efficient than multiple back-and-forth emails — and you having to decide who wins and who doesn’t.

Share the dates

The vacation schedule shouldn’t be a hidden document. Put it online in a shared folder or a public calendar so it’s available to all staff members. Having it readily accessible is preferable to emailing it to dozens of people, because you can easily make updates and avoid re-sending multiple revised versions. Sharing vacation information allows employees to plan around their colleagues’ schedules. For example, managers won’t want to onboard new hires during the weeks that the human resources department is running on a skeleton crew.

Cover vacationers’ tasks

You don’t want projects to miss important deadlines or tech problems to sit unresolved because of vacationing employees. Before team members take off for a week or two, make sure they are preparing for vacation too. Ask them to address essential duties before they leave or line up some of their colleagues to cover. Be sure they inform their backups of deliverable deadlines, client contact information, location of relevant files and other important details. So you don’t overwhelm any one person, you may want to delegate a vacationer’s duties to two or more co-workers.

Keep others in the know

Remind your staff to set up out-of-office email auto replies and to change their voicemail greetings as part of preparing for vacation. The information should include the date they return to work, who is covering for them in their absence, whether (and how often) they plan to check their messages and any emergency contact information. Doing so is not only important for co-workers but also for customers. In fact, if your staff deals with important accounts, ask them to send personalized messages to vendors and clients before they take off so no one is caught off guard and customer service doesn’t suffer.

Bring in reinforcements

Temporary employees come in handy when you’re contending with heavy seasonal workloads, so why not use them to cover vacations, too? To make sure accounts get processed and journal entries are prepared and entered, call on an agency that provides temporary accounting services. To ensure security updates run without a hitch and the help desk phone is answered, look for a technology staffing agency. To keep phones answered and paperwork moving along, contact a service that specializes in placing temporary office and administrative professionals.

Don’t let your staff’s vacations catch you off guard. For managers and their team members, preparing for vacation means much more than researching destinations and booking flights. So that nothing important is forgotten and you remain adequately staffed, plan ahead now for your team’s summer breaks.

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