Nobody got the vacation experience they desired last summer, including you. As a sales manager, your energy went toward managing a team remotely and helping reps hit sales goals when in-person meetings weren’t an option. All in all, vacation requests seemed out of the question.
Now, many are eager to return to their favorite summer spots and reconnect with family. According to a recent Destination Analyst report, about 87% of fully-vaccinated American travelers are comfortable with the idea of returning to travel, and about 77% say they are in a ready-to-travel mindset.
While you want your team to enjoy vacation time, it can be overwhelming as the ready-to-travel mindset leads to an influx of vacation requests. You must find the right balance in managing time off, keeping sales areas covered, and encouraging team members to get out and reconnect with the world.
Here’s how you can ensure teams enjoy their vacations without putting sales operations at risk:
1. Encourage employees to take a vacation
Your work culture plays a critical role in team members’ willingness to take vacation time and how much they get out of it.
According to a 2018 American Psychology Association (APA) survey, the positive impacts of taking a vacation upon return to work include better mood, more energy and motivation, decreased stress, and better quality of work.
However, the same study shows that these benefits dissipate for 38% of employees when the culture doesn’t support taking time off. When the culture is supportive, benefits only dissipate for 14% of workers.
Therefore, you must be transparent and communicative about your stance on vacation time. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- – Avoid complaining to anyone about how people taking time off may put you or the team in a frustrating situation. That will make others feel guilty for putting in vacation requests.
- – Be enthusiastic for team members before they leave and when they come back. Engage in conversation about what they’ll be doing, and follow-up with questions about how it went when they return to demonstrate how you support their decision and that your opinion of them has not changed.
- – Don’t hesitate to take time off for yourself! Fully disconnect from work while you’re gone to set the example that checking emails while on vacation is not an expectation. In fact, it is discouraged.
- – Provide some inspiration if you find team members aren’t sure what they want to do with PTO. If they don’t have the means for travel, offer some local suggestions that might be fun. You can mention good beaches near you, big parks for picnics or flying kites, botanical gardens, or berry picking farms.
2. Don’t bear the responsibility alone
Once those vacation requests start pouring in, remember that you do not have to play judge, jury, and executioner over who stays, goes, or has to handle coverage. Although you do have the most power in the decision-making process, your team can handle absences much better if they get a say in it.
Within each department or region, let them talk it out among themselves to find the best way to distribute vacation time responsibly. That way, any overlaps in time off can be strategized on their end before it comes to you.
As a result, it also ensures that you don’t receive backlash for demanding employees cover for their peers because they decided how to pace and pick up the responsibilities themselves.
Overall, this approach should minimize poor experiences with vacation time. The APA survey mentioned that 21% of respondents felt tense or stressed while on vacation in 2018, and 42% dreaded returning to work. But by establishing a process to take turns using PTO and decide who covers for whom as a team, each rep can rest easy knowing they won’t return to unrest or a mess that piled up in their absence.
3. Put standard systems in place
Setting policies in place for approving time off and optimizing coverage makes your work life easier and the vacation experience better for employees.
If there are not already company policies regarding deadlines for time off and who to prioritize in overlaps, establish some yourself and notify your team about the way you’re streamlining it. Perhaps you require two weeks’ notice for successive days of PTO, and first-come, first-served rules apply to multiple requests for the same days. As a result, decisions are never subjective.
To organize coverage, ask employees to leave cheat sheets behind before they leave for vacation with project summaries, important deadlines, and where to find crucial information.
Also, make sure your sales reps review their client accounts with a designated coverage person well in advance. That conversation allows for questions and clear communication of important info, so your representatives are prepared for emergency calls from clients without the need to interrupt a hard-earned vacation.
4. Consider establishing a black-out period
If it looks like a part of your team will be out at any given time over the entire summer, it may be beneficial for everyone’s wellness to set a week or two in the middle of the season or at a peak sales period when no one can take off.
That way, everyone is available for a brief stretch of time to ensure operations don’t get too out of hand. Team meetings can be more comprehensive, reps can answer questions more easily for clients, nobody has to worry about covering for someone else, and everyone gets an opportunity to catch up.
You’ll need to determine this black-out period early in the year so that you don’t accidentally interfere with a rep’s predetermined vacation plans.
It can also be helpful to poll the team or bring up the idea in a meeting to gauge reactions and ask for feedback. Just as you don’t bear the responsibility of vacation requests alone, you shouldn’t create a new expectation for the good of the group without at least checking in with them first. Be an empathetic leader.