Minimizing the Impact of Vacations on Your Projects

As appealing as it sounds, here is a perfect-world scenario for business owners and project managers: employees never getting sick, or taking personal days off or even vacations; not a very realistic thought. Most project managers fail to consider and take into account the possibility of employee vacations or think about their own time off and the subsequent impact it can have on your project.

The truth is that there will be times when employees will need to take an unplanned day off, a religious based absence, dealing with family emergencies or even want to go for a planned vacation. Not only employees though, being a project manager in no way means that you aren’t entitled to plan some time off.  There will however, be leave and vacation scheduling conflicts, two or more employees asking for the same time off, and client and project deadlines to be met and dealt with. So how does one in the midst of all this chaos successfully manage time off, arrange and cover for employee absences, and at the same time minimize the impact of any of this on the project itself?

The answer, as always, is preparation.

  • Employee Vacation Policy – clearly outline a written vacation policy for any and all employees during hiring and orientation processes. If all employees adhere to pre-set terms and conditions, this minimizes chances of conflict. Highlight peak working time-periods during which vacation requests may not be entertained, mention deadlines for vacation requests. Allow workers in identical positions to trade off on vacation time and dates amongst themselves as long as it does not jeopardize quality of work.
  • Absenteeism Monitoring – Too many employee absences can prove to be bad for business. To avoid them, implement strict absence policies throughout the organization that effectively record time and attendance. Enforce probabilities of consequences of disciplinary action to ensure compliance. Offer incentives and bonuses for employees to minimize unwarranted absences.
  • Risk Management and Back-up Plans – Devise and design a system of distributing work and assigned tasks amongst other members of the team to compensate for any contingencies. Actively create back-ups by identifying and developing leaders within the team that enables them to stand-in and take over to efficiently manage the team in the off-chance of your absence, the project manager.
  • Accurate Time Estimation and Appropriate Leeway – There are a number of project managers out there that fail to accurately estimate the time needed and required to finish a project without taking into consideration and giving appropriate leeway for the unforeseen. Choosing to micro-manage and disregarding the need for flexibility and latitude in a working environment only ends up generating unnecessary stresses for themselves and their team. Provide a certain breathing space to make up for any muck-ups, glitches and delays in the working process.

Absences, be they your own or the employees, have profound and measureable negative impacts on the ability of the team to make good on their services in a cost-effective and timely manner. They can create an unnecessary burden on present working employees, decrease morale, and add delays and business risks. Hence worrying about projects suffering in your or employee absence is only natural, but implementation of clear policies and risk management programs, some thorough advance planning and organizing is all it takes to ensure smooth running of the project like a well-oiled machine.

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