Running a small business is in equal measures both riveting and terrifying. If you’re new at it, you might be so wrapped up in looking for new clients and keeping your customers happy that some of the fundamental HR duties can easily slip under the radar. Small enterprises tend to have really small teams to match, and anyone who’s worked as part of a tiny workforce will be able to tell you that you really notice when someone’s missing be it through illness or staff holidays.
As wonderful as it would be for your staff never to take time off and always stay devoted to helping your business thrive, sadly this isn’t the case. Managing a team is pretty plain sailing if you’ve got the right people on board – it’s only when you start factoring in staff holidays and paid time off that it can get complicated. Throw in summer holidays, when everybody will be fighting for the same 6 weeks off, and you could be headed for disaster if you don’t keep on top of it. Luckily, with enough planning, anything is possible!
When setting a holiday allowance, you need to think realistically and fairly. Yes, we’d all love to be the best boss in the world and allow our teams unlimited time off – but if you’re a small business you most likely won’t be able to sustain long periods of time off from multiple members of staff at once.
You want to strike a good balance between going above the bare minimum requirement, and not giving away too much time that your business will struggle without.
Speaking of holiday allowance, be sure to track it well. You’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t actually keep tabs on their staff’s holiday usage. Not only could you wind up with a sparse looking office at certain times of the year, but you’re also likely to wind up out of pocket as well.
It may seem really obvious, but getting a shared holiday calendar set up either on Outlook, Google Docs or Dropbox is key to keeping on top of when your team are away. Even if this isn’t the same software or tool you use to track your team’s holiday allowance, having a visible place where everyone can see who is off and when isn’t just great for booking meetings – it means you’ll never have to deal with staff double-booking holidays again.
This is the bit that most business owners dread. As much as you probably hate being that person, you’ve got to have rules around booking holidays. You need to set up a business-wide policy on staff holidays that details the basic do’s and don’ts of requesting time off.
A good place to start is by not allowing last minute bookings as a general rule of thumb, a two-week deadline for requesting holiday should give you enough time to plan your resource in time for your member of staff being off. If you’ve got more than one person per team, it’s probably wise not to allow multiple people within that team to book time off at the same time.
There’s also the inevitably awkward task of sometimes having to say no. You’re well within your rights as an employer to decline holiday requests that fall over particularly busy periods, although you might not be popular around the watercooler afterward. The best way to avoid having to say no is by making your policy known as early as possible so there are no nasty surprises for anyone.
Supercharge your handovers
The key to a smooth and easy summer while people are off, is to ensure everybody takes on their fair share of the workload when your member of staff is sunning themselves on the beach. Sometimes you’ve got to cut your losses and accept that some tasks may not be completed until your team member is back at work, but if you can help it – you should try to avoid a bottleneck situation by setting out a clear handover process. Because people have different learning styles, you should ideally set up a handover meeting with the relevant staff members and also pop it in a written document so people can refer back to it.
If you’re a micro business with one person per business function, a great way to future-proof absences is to cross train your staff across the different business areas so you’re never left in the lurch if someone is unexpectedly off work
So while you might have your eyes on that next big client account, you’ve got to make sure you’re still keeping an eye on your team’s admin tasks too. Otherwise, you’re guaranteed to continue experiencing major upheavals every time a member of your team goes away for a well-deserved break. With a bit of organisation, regular communication with your team and a clear process of how to book time off, your business can run smoothly even when you’re not at full capacity.