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Balancing Summer Vacations and Running Your Business

Balancing Summer Vacations and Running Your Business

Are you busy finalizing plans for your fun summer vacation(s)?

If you are like half of American workers, you may be foregoing that much needed vacation. Consider these surprising statistics about today’s workforce.

  • According to a recent poll, 46% of American workers, take less paid time off than they are offered, per the Pew Research Center. 1
  • According to Project Time Off, Americans forfeited 705 million unused vacation days last year alone. 2
  • Today’s workers are concerned that time off will slow down their career advancement or derail a deadline-driven quota or project.
  • According to, on average employees typically receive only 10 to 14 days of PTO (Paid Time Off) after one year of service. 3

Ironically, studies show that taking time off actually can help managers and employees feel recharged, rejuvenated, and ignite a renewed passion for work. Additionally, taking time away from the job is linked to physical and mental health benefits as well, such as lower stress, a positive outlook on life, more motivation, and overall physical vitality. 4

On the flip side, you may be experiencing the conundrum of receiving multiple summer vacation requests from your employees. When you run a small business, every team member counts and often wears multiple hats, which makes it difficult to manage even one key employee out for vacation. As a business owner, how do you balance honoring requests for time off and avoiding employee burnout, all while meeting business demands-- especially during peak summer vacation times? Here are some best practices to follow:

Clearly communicate PTO policies. As a business owner, you can’t just offer an attractive PTO package, your company culture must support employee vacations, and your policy must be easy to understand and use. Being overly lenient or not having a strong PTO policy at all will make it difficult to operate your business, especially during peak vacation season. It’s best to create and consistently follow a written vacation policy that explains how vacation time is accrued, any peak times in your industry, and when vacations may not be feasible. In your employee handbook, make sure you have concrete details of how your employees can earn vacation, personal and/or sick time. Clearly state when the plan resets every year and how your company plans to handle carryover of any unused hours.

Implement tracking tools. It is important to have a clear and easy to manage PTO system, one that your employees understand and that is easy to monitor. Make sure you have the necessary tools and ability to ensure that you have adequate coverage while team members are taking PTO, especially during the summertime. There are many hassle-free systems that can centralize time off requests for admins, managers, and other employees. This could mean providing online tools or apps so your team members can quickly book their time off and check on the remainder of vacation days.

Set a notification deadline. Whether it is one month or six, a deadline for notifying HR or management of a planned vacation is a must and should be spelled out in your vacation policy further. Plus, if other employees will be picking up the vacationing team member’s duties, this will give your staff time to get a list of essential tasks in order such as gaining access to files and any open projects they may have to hand off. Communicate clearly about your PTO requests and expectations. This way employees know what to expect before putting in their request. You may approve submissions immediately or you may have PTO come on a first come first serve basis. Get feedback from your staff to see what works for their lifestyle and their family’s particular situation.

Cross train your employees. This is essential when you run a small business and is a best practice at any time. One of the best ways to prepare for peak vacation season is to always have team members training for other positions within your company. Managers should set clear expectations around project-based work and make sure that employees leave behind specific instructions for teammates doing fill-in work with all the necessary files and contracts to meet deadlines. If you have multiple employees taking vacation at the same time, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan in place. This could mean hiring temporary workers or even asking some employees to work overtime.

Once you have a handle on an effective PTO policy, cross trained employees, and vacation-time tracking system, let your employees enjoy their hard-earned time off with these steps:

Promote a healthy work life balance. Try strategies to incentivize employees to plan vacations around slower periods. Get creative with the busy summer vacation season when employees do want to take vacation (and you know they do!). Consider implementing a compressed work week, offering summer hours like flex Fridays, or allowing employees to work from home. Create an environment where vacation time is seen as an essential piece of employee wellbeing, and mental health within your company’s culture. You could also consider incentivizing vacation time by offering rewards or bonuses for employees who use their accrued vacation days--strategically. This can motivate employees to take time off, while still meeting performance and target goals.

Be a role model. Lead by example by encouraging senior executives and even yourself to take vacation time. This can help remove any stigma or reluctance to take time off and inspire your employees to follow suit. This does not mean taking your laptop on vacation, it truly means unplugging, spending time with family, and recharging. By the way, employees who never take or refuse to take time off could be a risk to your business.

Aspire to be an employer of choice. A well-designed PTO policy demonstrates how your company values its employees. This can help in attracting and retaining top talent as PTO policies are key factors that candidates consider when choosing a job offer. Vacation time is essential to helping reduce employee burn out and stress which is linked to poor morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. When employees have time to recharge, they can return to work feeling refreshed, energized, and ready to get back to work. As an employer, it is up to you to quell the fears of your staff if they’re worried about falling behind on a project or job security.

According to Glassdoor, mandatory vacations are becoming a new trend in the workplace for many companies that are dedicated to retaining talent and improving their workplace culture. 5 By creating PTO policies and guidelines that motivate your team to enjoy time away from work, your company can continue running smoothly during the summer PTO request surge. Your company and your employees will thank you for it.

Business Guidance That Delivers Results 

From strategic business advisory to operational efficiency, AETucker Consulting provides guidance, resources, and expertise to help companies operate at peak performance. For a complimentary consultation and to learn more, please visit us online or schedule a one-on-one discussion with me, Andrew Tucker, about your company goals.  It’s good to have a chat with someone new!

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