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Managing Summer PTO — 4 Easy Tips

For employees, summer is an opportunity to use their hard-earned paid time off (PTO). Employers can support employees in taking PTO, but they also need to keep in mind the impact on business. When too many team members are out at once, that can hinder collaboration and decrease productivity.

Fortunately, with proper planning, management can leave employees feeling satisfied and keep teams at peak performance. The keys to managing summer PTO are setting expectations, creating a system for conflict resolution, building a robust culture and encouraging communication.

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Setting expectations around PTO

It is important for organizations with essential employees to establish not every team member can take PTO at the same time. As important as it is to allow employees to take their fully allotted PTO and respect previously approved PTO, except in cases of an emergency, employees should understand PTO is subject to their manager’s approval. When employees believe their PTO requests will be approved without exception, they are much more likely to feel disappointed or even angry if their requests are denied.

Setting expectations requires the employer to develop PTO policies and put a system in place for approving vacation time. Policies could establish a maximum number of PTO days employees may take in a row or over the course in a single month. In addition, a rollover policy can limit the number of days employees can roll over year to year, which can prevent employees from accruing an excessive number of vacation days to use at one time.

Create a system to address conflicts

Almost every employee may want to take summer PTO at some point. In many cases, requests for PTO may coincide with holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. That can lead to multiple employees requesting the same days off. Managers may then have to decide the requests to accept or deny, which can lead to conflict between employees and their managers, and even between employees themselves.

Employers need to explain ahead of time how these conflicts will be addressed. Possible criteria include the date when the request was submitted, seniority, an employee’s previous PTO usage and how much PTO an employee has accrued. If PTO conflicts are resolved at a manager’s discretion, managers should be prepared to explain why one request was granted, while another was not. Transparency will make employees feel respected and increase their acceptance and understanding if their request is denied.

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Build a strong culture

A robust corporate culture is another key element of managing summer PTO. When organizations embrace the values of transparency and work-life balance, employees want to step up to support their teams and feel able to relax and recharge throughout the year.

One culture-building tool for managing PTO is flexible summer scheduling. Employees may be permitted to work earlier or later hours than usual, or in another time zone from a vacation destination. These flexible schedules can show appreciation for essential staff and improve their work-life balance.

Some businesses implement half-day “summer Fridays,” weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Typically, these half days are separate from accrued PTO and can be taken only once employees have completed their work and checked in with their supervisor. For essential employees, summer Fridays are a chance to relax without undermining business operations.

Encourage communication

Communication is the cornerstone of managing summer PTO for business success. Employees should not only communicate about PTO with their manager but should also communicate with one another about their plans. When employees discuss their vacations before finalizing their plans, they may organically discover and resolve conflicts without requiring a manager’s involvement. This is a best-case scenario for the entire team as employees feel engaged and respected by the process, and the manager does not need to spend time resolving conflicts.

Managers should also communicate with employees continually during one-on-one meetings throughout the summer to create a plan for fulfilling their duties. Especially when an employee is about to take a vacation of a week or longer, their duties will need to be delegated to a coworker. Employees should prepare documents overviewing protocols, if necessary, and meet with the team for a hand-off before their vacation. This is especially important if the employee expects to be in a remote area without cellular service or email.

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Summer is an exciting and relaxing time for both managers and employees. By focusing on expectations, conflict resolution, culture and communication, employers can avoid business slowdowns and maximize summer productivity.

Niki JorgensenNiki Jorgensen is a director of service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace. For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.