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Summer time management: how to avoid losing your cool

We’re now into holiday season – and the office rows about who gets to take time off and when are almost as inevitable as the heavens opening just as you’ve booked off a week-long staycation. In addition to this, there’s the question of how a company keeps all its clients happy whilst various members of the team are on leave – how can you balance running a small business smoothly whilst meeting your employees’ holiday wishes? Luckily Chris Meredith, CEO at officebroker.com, is here to give his advice on how to keep everyone, including clients, happy during the summer holiday period.

1.    Check last year

One of the simplest ways to decide who can take time off and when is to look at what happened last year. If one person had a particularly popular week off last year, then perhaps someone else should get it the next – it’s only fair. This way you can avoid the vicious office politics that the ‘first come, first served’ approach can, unfortunately, lead to.

2.    Set a maximum duration

It might be an idea to set a limit on the amount of holiday an employee can take in one go, such as only letting them take one or two weeks consecutively – so no five-week-long treks around the world. While a one week limit might cause some resentment, a two or three week limit is a reasonable request by any standards. This benefits the company in two ways: you avoid the situation of being understaffed for a long block of time, and your employee isn’t out of the loop for so long that they have to scramble to catch up on their return.

3.    Not everyone has kids

It may sound strange, but those who don’t have children also like taking time off in the summer. Who’d have thought it! Whilst you should be sympathetic and flexible to the needs of working parents during the summer holidays, ensure that you don’t rely on people without kids too much – it can hurt office morale.

4.    Effective client management

It is important that clients are made aware of when staff are going on holiday – that way they’re not left in the lurch when they urgently need help on a project, only to receive a cheery out-of-office reply to their stressed-out email. Make sure they know who their main point of contact is and that they are introduced beforehand to anyone new brought in on their account. A good practice is to try and have at least one team member per client through holiday season – that way, some level of continuity is retained.

5.    Get ahead of yourself

The last thing you want is for clients to see a notable dip in productivity during the holidays. The best way to get around this is by getting ahead before you go – getting a head start on work, scheduling things in advance, and generally stepping your efforts up a gear. That way if there is a dip you have mitigated some of its effects – and you can relax fully on your holiday knowing that you’ve covered all the bases and that you won’t be returning to urgent, unfinished tasks. Which brings us to…

6.    Good handovers

One of the most important tasks before you leave for palm trees and surf is leaving a full and detailed handover so colleagues know exactly where you are on different projects. Don’t leave your colleagues in the lurch; they’ll resent you for it, it’s not fair on them, and it will make everyone’s life more difficult.

7.    Remember to actually take a holiday

It may sound strange, but there are some people who forget to take great chunks of their holiday! The point of a holiday allowance is to let you unwind and take a break – preventing you burning out and dissolving into hysterical tears in front of Sheila, the office manager, when you discover someone else has used your coffee cup. But if you don’t take those days, you might not be able to carry them on, and they’ll be gone forever. Do yourself a favour and take that time off – you’re owed it, and in the long run it will make you more productive.