In a Jewel Mine in the middle of the forest are six dwarfs whistling while they work. In the mine office is Doc, pacing trying to figure out the vacation schedule for the year. He has seven employees and each get two weeks vacation and three sick days. Do the math, that’s 91 days he’ll be short-staffed this year. That’s three months. The problem is that some of his employees burn through it right away and then want to borrow from next year, some want it only around the holidays (like the other dwarfs) and some complain how they don’t have time to take it off. It’s hard to mine for diamonds when you are worried about how to handle that time and everything else.
Vacation is a great benefit, but it complicates things. You are a small mine, times are tough, so you’re at bare minimum for staff. When a dwarf is out it becomes a hardship, so employees like Bashful feel guilty taking off and you are grateful to him. But it’s a benefit and you have to let them take vacation. Times are tough for your employees too. Grumpy wants his vacation paid out because he doesn’t have money to go anywhere anyway! Happy wants to wait and take a really long vacation next year.
Please keep in mind that vacation doesn’t have to be a PAID benefit. You can have an unpaid vacation/sick policy. Not paying for days off does not give employees unlimited time off of work. Anything above those days off become attendance issues. That’s another fairy tale.
I’m going to say it again, you need a policy! First you need to remember why you gave the dwarfs vacation and sick days in the first place. Sneezy was not getting paid to stay home, so he was coming into work sick and passing germs on to everyone else. Do you remember a time when you were working for a long period without a break? Which Dwarf did you become? Did you start the year as Happy and around July you are tired and people are calling you Grumpy? The definition of vacation is “a respite or a time of respite from something”. We all need a break from time to time. Employees need the time off.
Making the time for vacation. Look at your business calendar. Is there a time that you cannot afford to have anyone gone? That’s ok, make that your blackout period. Put it in writing and make sure it applies to EVERYONE. If staffing is a huge concern, make a policy that only so many people can be off from each department at a time. Implement a sign up period and have a first come first served policy. If you don’t sign up you can’t be guaranteed your requested time. You can give a limited rollover into the next year or have a use it or lose it policy. It’s important that you examine that policy thoroughly. If just half of these dwarfs roll over one week Doc will need to schedule 108 days off next year.
Paying out vacation. I do not believe in paying out vacation. It’s my blog so I can say that. If you do, I recommend only paying out half. People need time off to recharge. If you wanted to give bonuses you would have done that, but you didn’t. When people are worn out they become nightmare dwarfs…Grumpy, Sleepy and Sneezy. They are more apt to have accidents, make mistakes and get sick. When you pay out vacation people call in for things that they scheduled and should have used vacation days for, leaving you short dwarfs without notice. If you decide to pay it out, make sure you budget for those extra weeks. The annual salary is not your bottom line cost, you will have to add that time. Did I mention I don’t believe in doing this?
Time off is important! Implementing it is tricky. Every Dwarf is going to have a reason to ABSOLUTELY need this day off, paid out, extended etc. But you need a policy to follow. If the dwarfs know everyone in the mine is treated the same, they will be appreciative for the vacation and work within the rules to take the time off. Don’t be discouraged by Grumpy, there is always one (sometimes he’s you)!