How to manage vacation schedules

How to manage vacation schedules

Summer is here, kids are out of school, and your employees are probably excited about taking a vacation (or, given high gas prices, maybe a staycation-but either way they’ll be out of the office for a while). Hopefully, you’ve planned ahead and organized the schedule so that the practice will be covered adequately while key staffers are away. If you have, congratulations. If not, here are some ideas to consider that will make vacation scheduling easier for next summer, or during the year-end holiday season-another time when employees often request days or weeks off to spend with family.

Your human resources manual should clearly outline how much vacation time employees accrue based on their position and tenure with the practice. You should also have a written policy that addresses how far in advance vacation requests must be submitted and approved and how many people can be away from the office at any one time. A large dry-erase annual calendar in the break room is helpful as it lets everyone in the office see at a glance who will be gone when.

Practices find a variety of ways to keep operations running smoothly when staff members are on vacation. Consider these possibilities.

  • Cross-train in advance so that employees can more easily float from one department to another to cover for vacations. See this blog post about the benefits of cross-training.
  • Ask part-time employees to increase their hours to full-time while someone is away. If, for example, you have a medical assistant who works just one or two days a week, ask if he or she can work four or five days for a short stint.
  • Use temporary workers from staffing agencies. This solution can be expensive, and unless you can find temps who have direct medical office experience, it might not be worth the investment or trouble. A better option could be maintaining your own pool of back-up staffers (former employees who left on good terms, for example) to call upon when needed.
  • While having the spouses of practitioners working in a practice can present certain challenges, recruiting the wife, husband, or significant other of one of your doctors to cover for a week here and there is something to consider, assuming they have skills that are useful in the office.
  • When possible, have staff members take vacations that coincide with when practitioners are also away on holiday or at continuing educational meetings.

Regardless of how you cover for employees who are away, make every effort to ensure that they don’t come back to work wishing they’d never left. At the very least, assign someone to keep up on at least the most basic aspects of the vacationer’s work during the time they are away. No one wants to return from their holiday fully rested only to find 40 phone messages that need to be returned and a big pile of mail to be opened and sorted. Be sensitive to this for all employees, from the reception staff to the practitioners, and it will make post-vacation reentry a pleasant experience for all involved.