Things to Check Before an Employee Goes On Vacation

Preparations Make Vacations More Enjoyable For Everyone.

Long ago, before there were cell phones, during my first real job after college, I was assigned to fill in for a co-worker who was going on vacation.

I sat with her and she showed me everything that was going on. She told me she wasn’t going anywhere special, just hosting relatives coming to the big city for their vacation. She told me to call her at home if I had any questions, but only if absolutely necessary.

Somewhere in the first week of her vacation, I ran into a stumbling block, but my boss Charlie was adamant that I solve the problem on my own and not call her. “I don’t care if she’s at home – she’s on vacation!”

A few months later, I was the one on vacation. It was a stay-cation for me, too, but I was getting out every day, some days to the beach and some days fishing. It must have been Tuesday or Wednesday that I got home late and found a mildly frantic message from someone at work on my answering machine. No details, just “call as soon as possible.”

I fretted about it all evening long and called in just after 9 AM the next morning. I forget what the issue was, but to say it was minor is an understatement. It’s also an understatement to say my vacation, such as it was, was pretty much over.

Preparations Make Vacations More Enjoyable For Everyone

When employees go on vacation, they often make extensive preparations. They pack carefully and extensively, they arrange for good boarding for their pets, they get a neighbor to pick up their mail, and some even arrange for someone to stop by frequently to water the plants and do other chores like feeding pet fish and birds. And those preparations are just for leaving their home secured and cared for while they’re on a short trip.

The preparation at the job can be as extensive.

Administrative Minutiae

First are the administrative details of ensuring that the employee is entitled to the time off and is properly paid for it. Most employers have a routine so that these tasks are completed more or less automatically. New enterprises, though, can sometimes be caught unawares by an employee’s request for vacation and vacation pay. And few things can demoralize an employee like expecting vacation pay before they leave and not getting it.

Making Sure the Job Gets Done

Then there are the job-oriented preparations.

Some jobs are more production-oriented or service-oriented than others. For example, production line workers in a factory, housekeeping personnel, and warehouse and shipping clerks generally don’t have ongoing projects, but their presence in your facility is generally critical to your proper operation. If you cannot do without people in these jobs while they take vacation, you should make arrangements before the vacation starts for a temporary replacement. In most cases, the training for these temporary employees can be conducted quickly by the supervisor or team leader when they report for work.

Many employees, though, are routinely involved in multiple projects, some special and some ongoing, as well as other duties. Ideally, vacation is scheduled far enough in advance to permit work on different projects to be massaged, and for milestones and deliverables that would have been due during the vacation to be met beforehand. At any rate, these employees should meet with their supervisors to review the status of the different projects they play a key role in. Even if it soesn’t seem like a big deal, the supervisor should assign someone else to cover for the vacationing employee on each project, and the employee and fill-in should consult on the project. It’s appropriate, when projects are complex, for the employee to put instructions in writing. This process should be documented to make certain that nothing falls between the cracks, as can happen when everyone thinks someone else is responsible for a task.

Final Details . . .

On the last day at work, the employee should record an appropriate message on his or her voicemail, and likewise compose appropriate messages for the email system. Depending on the nature and status of each project, some clients should be personally contacted sometime during the week before the vacation to inform them personally both of the vacation and the name of the person to contact during that time.

Oh, Yeah – Emergency Contact

What’s an emergency? What justifies disturbing an employee during their vacation? You should build a checklist for vacation prep to avoid anyone ever interrupting an employee’s vacation. No vacationing employee should ever get a call from the job asking where the file cabinet key is, or the number to call for ordering office supplies. Even if the office burns down – what will a call to most vacationing employees do beyond ruining the rest of their vacation?

Don’t forget why employees take vacation – to get away from the job, to disconnect and disengage for two or three weeks, or longer.

There’s no shortage of research that shows that vacations – real vacations where there’s no contact between the vacationer and the job – have a wonderfully therapeutic and rejuvenating effect. Dealing with an employee’s absence also is good for the people on the job who are filling in or working around the vacationer.

Thus, the preparation at work to ensure that the employee’s work is covered has two purposes. First, of course, it ensures that your business runs smoothly. Just as important to your employee, though, and to your business as well, is ensuring that there’ll be no attempts to connect or engage with her while she’s on vacation, disconnected and disengaged.

But I REALLY Have To Get in Touch!

Okay. If the chips are down and there’s simply no other option, go ahead and call. When you get through, don’t waste a lot of time on chit-chat, but get right down to business. Make sure you take care of all business thoroughly – it’s worse if you call again half an hour later, “Oh, one more thing . . .” If you get voice-mail, which is a distinct possibility, leave a decent message so that your employee doesn’t fret about it overnight.

Wrapping It Up

Vacations are a time when employees can get away from it all, relax, and enjoy time with family, friends, or whomever. They promote creativity, enhance our health, and promote overall wellbeing. They help people deal with stress, and frequently help improve people’s job performance. They allow people to recharge their batteries, to rejuvenate and recover from the pressures and stresses of the past year on the job.

A good vacation returns your employee to work at his or her peak, ready to give 110% until the next time off.

Looked at from this perspective, it’s clear that ensuring that nobody has to call vacationing employees is just as important as making sure the firm runs smoothly in their absence.


Written By

Dale Marshall

Human Resources Manager.