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The Summer of Travel – How to Prepare for Employee PTO

out of the office written in the sand

It’s finally coming to a close. Millions of newly vaccinated Americans are saying goodbye to quarantine and moving forward in a society that gets to call itself, “post-COVID-19”. While this is an incredible milestone for 2021, there’s one side effect that has employers a bit concerned about the summer: vacation time.

The pandemic’s end brings about a pair of connected points. For one, most workers have spent the past year accruing Paid Time Off while waiting indoors for their chance to take a vacation. In fact, 56% of respondents to a survey at the end of 2020 said they’re leaving PTO unused due to COVID.

Point two? Now that non-essential travel is possible again for the first time in ages, everyone’s vying to spend a lot more PTO than usual this summer. It’s not just a feeling we all have; Priceline.com says their reservations for trips to Mexico are up 230% from this time in 2019, and hospitality companies like AirBnB and hotels claim to be seeing exponential growth daily as vaccinations roll out.

Of course, this is great news for the human race, but a flood of vacation requests can become a headache for employers. While losing several workers for the same timeframe can be difficult to manage, rejecting or moving someone’s vacation time is considered an office sin of the highest order. So, what should a manager/company do to combat a summer full of PTO?

Short answer: their best.

In all seriousness, any employer that tries to fight their employee’s vacation time during the first summer after a pandemic will instantly crush morale and lose their staff’s support. Sure, it will be tough, but think of it this way – all the PTO your team didn’t take over the last year has ultimately resulted in a little more production. They’re just taking time off they would have claimed earlier.

It’s true, though, that the wrong combination of employees out for a week can make certain projects come to a standstill. If you’re worried about specific scenarios, be proactive. Send out surveys now to see when different workers are planning to take vacations. This gives you ample time to plan ahead, rescheduling goals and preparing for alternate scenarios. Additionally, if you make the survey results public knowledge, your team might notice trends with each other’s chosen weeks and adjust accordingly to help out.

Another way to get your PTO ducks in a row is by scheduling regular weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one’s with your staff that focus on any planned days off as well as the work at hand. With a comprehensive picture of everyone’s potential vacation time, you’ll be able to work together with your team to redistribute work and shift deadlines based on everyone’s moves. By the way, this can also be a good way to bond – get to know a little about them through their travel plans.

Preparing for a worker’s absence can actually save you money – according to Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer,” unscheduled absenteeism costs about $3,600 annually for each hourly worker and $2,650 annually for salaried employees.

In conclusion, if you’re expecting an influx of requests for vacation time, do your best to plan ahead and let your staff take the time off they deserve. Turn a clean round of paid time off into a goal rather than an obstacle – it’ll show that you take your team’s satisfaction seriously. When they return rested and rejuvenated, they might even be a bit more productive.

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