Planning summer vacations at work can be tricky. While it is essential to maintain a certain level of coverage at the office, it is also important to work with employees’ schedules so they can enjoy their annual respites from work. And then there are the vacation policies: Do three-weeks of vacation kick in at the start of year 10 or 11? Can employees take 10 days off in a row? The questions can be daunting.

 

That is why it’s important to put it all in writing, according to Doug Kauffman, a labor and employment attorney with Balch & Bingham in Seattle. “The number one thing is having a written policy,” Kauffman said recently in SHRM Online. “Putting all the rules down in writing establishes what people are eligible for. The policy should cover all contingencies. That is key.”

 

Beyond the policy, though, is the process. Here are three simple ways to help manage any summer vacation issues that may occur in the weeks ahead:

 

1. Be mindful of employee workloads: Take a look at vacation calendars and assign work accordingly. There is no need to begin your account reps on a huge project that will require the bulk of the work during the week they will be gone. For that matter, try to avoid a deadline that is a day or two after they return. A lot of these projects can be managed in advance and you also may be able to find other members of your team who will step up to help their co-workers, knowing that their efforts will be reciprocated later this summer when they’re hiking the Grand Tetons with their family.

 

2. Help spread the word: Make sure that employees make their essential contacts – both internally and externally – aware when they are out of town. While there may be some situations where companies want to mask their employees’ absences from the office, in most cases it makes sense to let co-workers and clients know that they will be unavailable for the next week or so and to leave the appropriate contacts in case any issues arise.

 

A simple, effective voice mail and an out-of-office email, while considered standard practices, aren’t always part of the vacation process. The omission of an extended-absence message makes everyone look bad, so providing a simple reminder or checklist to all vacationing employees isn’t a bad idea. Make sure that employees leave clear instructions on what to do in their absence and the date they’ll return to the office.

 

3. Give employees some time to breathe: Today, most employees – even if they refuse to be tethered to the office during their time away – will go through their emails and voicemails before returning to their desks. But in most cases, that’s not a requirement. Try not to schedule any meetings for the day they return. Give them a chance to catch up on their work, to address any immediate issues, and to get back into the flow of the workday before you call them in for the 90-minute strategy session.