July 12, 2017
- Director, Human Resources, TD Ameritrade Institutional
It’s easy to understand why people look forward to summer months. For most, it represents a time to enjoy all the treasures the season has to offer, from great weather, adventurous activities, relaxation, and travel, to time well spent with family and friends. Often, summer creates lasting memories and allows us to redeem the benefits of our hard work. From a work perspective, however, it can cause unintended stress. This can stem from covering for employees who are on vacation, worrying about unanticipated issues popping up while a co-worker is out of the office, and not missing anything important while you’re on vacation. And then there’s managing childcare needs since school is out.
Here are a few tips that may alleviate unintended strain and optimize summer enjoyment.
• Culture. While some employees use all available vacation time, others may need to be encouraged to take time off. There should be a culture of supporting downtime and emphasizing time away from work to focus on personal interests. If employees feel the office environment promotes a healthy balance of work and play, they will feel less stressed being away from the office.
• Flexible work schedules. Employees appreciate a flexible work schedule that allows for greater family time, particularly during the summer months when there could be family activities at camp or just getting in a bike ride at the park. Allowing for schedule modifications can encourage employees to take advantage of the summer while not feeling guilty about needing time off. Planning for a different work schedule is often less disruptive than regularly requesting ad hoc time off—and everyone in the office can benefit.
• Remote capabilities. Many factors, including technology, have changed how and where work is performed today. Tapping into the vast resources that allow remote functionality can benefit employees and employers alike. When considering remote working arrangements, it’s important to note that not all jobs are conducive to working outside of a traditional office environment, particularly those that have greater regulatory requirements.
Other considerations are new (vs. experienced or high-performing) employees who may need more training or supervisory oversight. For those able to work remotely, you’ll find that most typically stay engaged after regular work hours or during vacations because of a strong work ethic and desire to stay on top of work. Often, this allows employees to enjoy their time away from the office to a greater degree because they can remain connected to work items and not feel so backlogged upon their return.
• Working remotely. Here are some best practices to consider when employees work remotely. Generally, co-workers should keep the same schedule so they can reach each other as needed. Office mates should also know where someone is working from and how they can be reached. In order to limit disruption across business functions, it’s a good practice to have at least one person per team or function in the office to handle unexpected situations or client walk-ins. Any flexible work arrangement should always account for continuity of high service levels and covering for day-to-day operations.
• Career development. As employees plan to take vacations, covering for another employee can be a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to a different part of the business or build different skills. Fun summer learning! If someone is planning for an extended vacation, care should be taken to ensure critical work is covered by another team member. This allows others to jump into a different line of work, particularly for those interested in expanded responsibilities. For the vacationing employee, knowing their work will not come to a halt provides added peace of mind to fully unwind.
• Communication. I love hearing about my co-workers’ vacations, travels, and fun family moments. I’ve gotten some great ideas and interesting suggestions for my own vacations just by talking to others. Keeping a picture board where employees can share and highlight their summer fun is a creative way to support personal time and create a culture of embracing work-life balance. In order to keep the focus on summer enjoyment, it’s important to eliminate disruption or challenges that can stem from being away from the office. Identifying and communicating across teams when individuals will be away allows for effective planning. As soon as vacations are scheduled, it’s a good idea to have a point person keep track. This provides visibility, better coverage of work, or allows for alterations when critical projects kick-off. Communicating to clients and teams well in advance, allows employees to handle important items before they leave or assign other team members to cover it. This goes a long way toward keeping business operations in tact, sets expectations with clients and team members alike, and allows individuals to enjoy their vacation time.
As you enjoy everything the summer has to offer, give yourself permission to disconnect. You won’t regret it and your clients will benefit from your refreshed mindset.