While holidays clearly benefit business productivity, they can quickly endanger your business operations. Especially, when there are no annual leave policies in place, and finding the perfect work-life balance for your employees is not easy.
Implementing the right policies and tools before you find yourself in a chaotic workplace during the holiday season is essential. The key here is to take advantage of the benefits that annual leave offers while keeping your business running smoothly.
The positive effects of holidays in the workplace
Europe is known for providing workers with benefits. Especially, for the generous leave entitlement provided in EU countries. However, the UK still falls behind when it comes to work-life balance.
In fact, a TUC analysis found that workers in the UK work the longest in the EU. While the average EU employee works 20 hours a week, British workers stay the longest at work with 42 hours a week. That’s an extra 2 and a half weeks a year.
Britain’s long hours culture is nothing to be proud of. It’s robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal. It’s time for a change. Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn’t only good for workers, it can boost productivity. As new technology changes our economy, the benefits should be shared by working people. That means shorter hours, more time with family and friends, and decent pay for everyone.
Despite the prevailing “long hours” culture in the UK, productivity is not rising. Surprisingly, the same analysis found that productivity in Denmark, the EU country with the shortest working hours, is almost 25% higher even though they work 4 hours less a week.
These findings confirm what 72% of employees say: taking time off makes them healthier and more productive at work. Well-rested employees benefit from a clear mind.
The effects of a positive attitude towards paid time off are the same across the globe. APA’s 2018 Work and Wellbeing Survey found that 78% of employees from companies who encourage time off were more likely to have higher levels of motivation as compared to 45% of employees from companies who don’t encourage time off.
The results continue to shock with increased productivity and quality of work, making a key differentiator between organizations (73% vs 45%). An astonishing 88% employees from companies who encourage paid time off say they are satisfied with their job and would recommend their company as a good workplace. This figure will also be key to establish your organization as one that provides a good work-life balance. Not only will this help you increase employee retention, but also attract more talent.
The danger of holidays
Before romanticizing generous annual leave policies, it’s important to remember the downsides. One of the biggest fears for managers is finding themselves in chaos due to staff shortage. To prevent this, here’s a friendly reminder: your managers have the last word when approving holiday requests. Their decision on approving or declining leave is binding, and you can help guide them to avoid any sticky situations.
By law, you’re not obliged to grant holiday requests, if you think it will negatively affect your business routine. Unless the contract states otherwise. In order to avoid misunderstandings, having a clear annual leave policy is essential.
Implementing a “first come, first serve” approval process might be good to start with. By doing so, you’ll avoid hurting your employees’ confidence or goodwill towards you. But you can’t stop there, especially when you don’t have a real absence management system.
Things can get messy pretty quickly when everyone starts planning their holidays. Without accurate remaining leave balances or an overview of pending leave requests, your managers may struggle to make the right decision. An absence management tool will help you make data-driven decisions and keep you away from operational bottlenecks.
By supporting your absence management efforts with digital tools, you won’t have to resort to strict holiday planning. Instead, you’ll be able to empower employees to take time off and leverage smart holiday planning to ensure your business overcomes the holiday season challenges.
How to improve your staff holiday planning
Planning staff holiday and how the business will function whilst staff are on leave doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few things you can do to improve the planning process:
Discuss your time off policy during the orientation process
Making things crystal clear from the first day during the onboarding process will help your new hires get a better understanding of expectations, including annual leave. Let them know about the peak seasons in your company and that it might be hard to grant holidays around those dates.
Encourage employees to plan their vacation well in advance
Many companies encourage employees to plan their holidays at the start of every year as far in advance as possible and for a good reason. This allows managers to manage holiday leave efficiently and helps them make the best decision possible.
How far in advance you require them to plan depends on your company industry and size. Many companies in the manufacturing sector request employees to plan their vacation before the new year starts. Meanwhile, for those in the healthcare industry, employees are required to plan three to five months in advance. Depending on your company, planning so far in advance might not be necessary.
However, a notice period of 4–5 weeks prior to their holiday will give you enough time to reorganize and adjust operations.
Manage leave with a plan
Having a plan ensures that all employees are available to deliver your service promise. With clearly defined policies, you can prevent employees from taking holidays at the same time if it would impact your business performance. This is helpful especially if your company is divided in teams or departments. During peak periods, planning accordingly can make a huge difference.
Empower your employees to get aligned among themselves
As casual talks are the daily bread in the office, holiday plans come up in conversation. Why not use this opportunity to let them support your planning? Allow them to discuss holiday dates and ensure all areas of your business remain covered throughout the year.
By encouraging collaborative planning, they’ll learn to work as a team, increase their engagement, empowerment and ensure their quality of work is not jeopardized. Even if they don’t agree on changing their holiday plans, they can at least commit to deliver before they head off for their holidays.